First 64K smart card receives FIPS certification

If and when the Defense Department decides to move to a 64K chip for its Common Access Card, at least one vendor will have a product available that meets Federal Information Procession Standards.

Gemplus International S.A., with U.S. facilities at Horsham, Pa., earlier this month obtained FIPS 140-2 certification for its 64K card equipped with the necessary CAC applets. The card will comply with version 2.1 of the Government Smart Card Interoperability Specification.

FIPS certification is required for government cryptography applications. The CAC contains digital keys that are used for encryption and digital signatures.

Mary Dixon, director of the Defense Manpower Data Center's Access Card Office, said the military services will decide in June whether to go from the current 32K chip for CAC to a 64K chip. She said there is a 90 percent probability the larger chip will be adopted, because the current chips are nearing the end of their lifecycle. The additional storage would be used for new applets.

The latest version of the government interoperability specifications for smart cards, with which CAC must comply, now are moving through the formal adoption process of the American National Standards Institute and the International Standards Organization, said Bob Gilson, a management and program analyst in DMDC's Access Card Office.

National Institute of Standards and Technology, the government's standards-setting agency, developed the specifications. Formal adoption by the national and international bodies would encourage their adoption in the commercial world, helping to ensure that off-the-shelf products will be available for programs such as CAC.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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