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magnetic card logon

Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2012-06-21
i want to be able to log into my windows session with a magnetic card

it is simple to do, and how it works

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Generally, magnetic cards do not have sufficient capacity to hold the kind of credentials needed to authenticate. Most newer hardware (as well as some newer Windows security API's) support "smart card" logins, wherein the card hosts a small chip that has just enough memory and processing power to hold identity certificates.

Many keyboards are now offered with card readers as an option, as are separate card reader devices. The reader software on the device performs some basic authentication checks on the stored certificates, and typically implements some sort of PIN-based mechanism to authenticate the card against the presenting user, implementing what's known as "two-factor" authentication.

Hope that helps.


do you have an example of what you are talking about
Well, I'm not sure what you mean entirely by example, because such an example entails hardware and software.

One example of hardware I can think of is from Dell, which sells a keyboard (primarily to its Enterprise customers) that includes a card reader that can read and write to a smartcard. Some smartcard vendors provide the software necessary to write initial certificates to the smart card that are later used for authentication.

You'd be more likely to find these in an enterprise that already has some basic Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) in place, at least one that can issue identity certificates to be written to the smartcard, and can then read the card to authenticate the certificates stored on it.

If you're not yet familiar with x509 certificates and PKI, I would *strongly* suggest familiarizing yourself in that area. That information will make the certificate/smart card aspect of this security/authentication mechanism clearer. Its a fascinating field, to be sure!


Simple Geek from the '70s
Distinguished Expert 2019
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