Smart Card Security, Part 2

Data Integrity

This is the function that verifies the characteristics of a document and a transaction. Characteristics of both are inspected and confirmed for content and correct authorization. Data Integrity is achieved with electronic cryptography that assigns a unique identity to data like a fingerprint. Any attempt to change this identity signals the change and flags any tampering.


This inspects, then confirms, the proper identity of people involved in a transaction of data or value. In authentication systems, authentication is measured by assessing the mechanisms strength and how many factors are used to confirm the identity. In a PKI system a Digital Signature verifies data at its origination by producing an identity that can be mutually verified by all parties involved in the transaction. A cryptographic hash algorithm produces a Digital Signature.


This eliminates the possibility of a transaction being repudiated, or invalidated by incorporating a Digital Signature that a third party can verify as correct. Similar in concept to registered mail, the recipient of data re-hashes it, verifies the Digital Signature, and compares the two to see that they match.

Authorization and Delegation

Authorization is the processes of allowing access to specific data within a system. Delegation is the utilization of a third party to manage and certify each of the users of your system. (Certificate Authorities).

Authorization and Trust Model
Authorization and trust model image
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Auditing and Logging

This is the independent examination and recording of records and activities to ensure compliance with established controls, policy, and operational procedures, and to recommend any indicated changes in controls, policy, or procedures.


Is the oversight and design of the elements and mechanisms discussed above and below. Card management also requires the management of card issuance, replacement and retirement as well as polices that govern a system.

Cryptography / Confidentiality

Confidentiality is the use of encryption to protect information from unauthorized disclosure. Plain text is turned into cipher text via an algorithm, then decrypted back into plain text using the same method.

Cryptography is the method of converting data from a human readable form to a modified form, and then back to its original readable form, to make unauthorized access difficult. Cryptography is used in the following ways:

  • Ensure data privacy, by encrypting data
  • Ensures data integrity, by recognizing if data has been manipulated in an unauthorized way
  • Ensures data uniqueness by checking that data is "original", and not a "copy" of the "original". The sender attaches a unique identifier to the "original" data. This unique identifier is then checked by the receiver of the data.

The original data may be in a human-readable form, such as a text file, or it may be in a computer-readable form, such as a database, spreadsheet or graphics file. The original data is called unencrypted data or plain text.The modified data is called encrypted data or cipher text. The process of converting the unencrypted data is called encryption. The process of converting encrypted data to unencrypted data is called decryption.

Data Security Mechanisms and their Respective Algorithms

Data Security Mechanisms
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In order to convert the data, you need to have an encryption algorithm and a key. If the same key is used for both encryption and decryption that key is called a secret key and the algorithm is called a symmetric algorithm. The most well-known symmetric algorithm is DES (Data Encryption Standard).

Symmetrical Encryption

The Data Encryption Standard (DES) was invented by the IBM Corporation in the 1970's. During the process of becoming a standard algorithm, it was modified according to recommendations from the National Security Agency (NSA). The algorithm has been studied by cryptographers for nearly 20 years. During this time, no methods have been published that describe a way to break the algorithm, except for brute-force techniques. DES has a 56-bit key, which offers 256 or 7 x 1016 possible variations. There are a very small numbers of weak keys, but it is easy to test for these keys and they are easy to avoid.

Triple-DES is a method of using DES to provide additional security. Triple-DES can be done with two or with three keys. Since the algorithm performs an encrypt-decrypt-encrypt sequence, this is sometimes called the EDE mode. This diagram shows Triple-DES three-key mode used for encryption:

Symmetric Key (3DES) Encryption

If different keys are used for encryption and decryption, the algorithm is called an asymmetric algorithm. The most well-known asymmetric algorithm is RSA, named after its three inventors (Rivest, Shamir, and Adleman). This algorithm uses two keys, called the private key. These keys are mathematically linked. Here is a diagram that illustrates an asymmetric algorithm:

Asymmetric (Public Key) Encryption

Asymmetric algorithms involve extremely complex mathematics typically involving the factoring of large prime numbers. Asymmetric algorithms are typically stronger than a short key length symmetric algorithm. But because of their complexity they are used in signing a message or a certificate. They not ordinarily used for data transmission encryption.