What Is a Common Access Card (CAC)?


An Access Card (CAC) is a smart card that serves as a standard identification for United States Active Duty Uniform Defense Personnel, including the National Guard and Selected Reserve, as well as civilian employees of the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and other Department of Defense and USCG contractor personnel. Physical access into buildings and other controlled spaces, as well as access to government defense computer systems and networks, are achieved with this card. It meets the requirement for two-factor authentication.

Learn about Common Access Card (CAC)

With the help of the Department of Defense, Congress directed the Secretary of Defense to implement smart card technology in 1999, which led to the creation of the Common Access Card. The technology has greatly improved security, readiness, and efficiency. CAC is also being used as a principal card in businesses because it can control and secure access to buildings, controlled spaces, computer systems, and networks.

A CAC utilizes two-factor authentication: the physical card and the card owner’s personal identification number (PIN). Rapid authentication and a boost in terms of physical security and logic are provided by these two features.

Deployment of the Common Access Card (CAC)

CAC is a smart card designed to be used as an ID card to grant physical access to buildings and controlled spaces such as server rooms as well as access to computer systems and networks. Department of Defense (DoD) deployed this system to meet its high security requirements for authentication of personnel entering the department’s buildings, controlled areas, and computer networks. Described as a smart card with public key infrastructure (PKI) features, Common Access Cards provide secure system functionalities such as authentication, data integrity, confidentiality, and nonrepudiation. The CAC stores the private key of the client certificates, used in a PKI cryptography program, on the card and it is difficult to extract this key.

The Common Access Card is based on public key systems and certificates, which are more secure than the current common username and password based identity management systems. With a public key based system, as long as the private key remains private, the system is secure. It is also highly portable and temperature resistant. Future applications of the cac.works will include encrypting emails, expanding web portals for online commerce, and using public key infrastructure (PKI) authentication. The card will gain three-factor authentication by adding a biometric.

An Introduction to Common Access Cards (Smart Cards)

Security solutions that offer easy deployment, strong authentication, data protection capacity and improved user experience are consistently sought after by businesses. The CAC technology is thought to provide strong protection without requiring any changes to the existing infrastructure. An organization may use CAC to achieve strong multi-factor authentication, access to all applications with added single sign on capabilities. It is therefore essential to implement a cost-efficient deployment and life cycle management strategy.

The basic phases of CAC (smart card) deployment as outlined by Microsoft are:

  1. Phase of envisioning. As outlined by Microsoft, the basic phases of the CAC (smart cards) deployment require higher management involvement. Getting executive support is essential for project sponsorship. This is where requirement gathering, documenting of the requirements, creating vision strategy, Team building and preparation and high-level vision or scope review will be conducted.
  1. Planning phase. After the envisioning phase has been full executed and the visionscope approved for implementation, this phase will follow. In this phase, detailed planning and specification for the CAC deployment project will be outlined. The main activities in this phase would be preparing the functional specification for CAC, Designing the chip and cards and readers, preparation of schedule and budget, prepare Risk assessment were the team will brainstorm the risks to the smart card deployment in a way that it will address risks associated to lost cards, inconsistency, inefficiency etc., conduct a project plan review.
  2. Development phase. Enterprises usual work with different software vendors and card manufacturers to custom design their smart card solutions. However, some in-house development is required to enable smooth application integration, It is also necessary to develop an implementation script and to add custom features based on the type of business the firm does and security concerns. The maPhase 3 includes proof-of-concept testing of the card solution in a simulated lab environment, pre-production testing, pilot testing, preparing of a production deployment plan, policies and procedures, determining the number of cards needed, planning process for card issuance, training end users, and conducting a ready-to-release review.e smart card deployment process would be to deploy core technology, deploy readers and begin issuance of the card.