Card Technology had evolved dramatically over the years. Historically, card-based access control was built around a card with a magnetic stripe. The user needs to swipe the cards through a magnetic reader to gain access. However, this technology had several disadvantages. The physical contact with the reader leads to the wear and tear of the magnetic strip. And the magnetic strip if subject to strong magnets is rendered unreadable, requiring replacement.
Proximity cards on the other hand work on radio frequency and do not require any physical contact with the reader. Proximity readers constantly emit short-range radio wave that powers an integrated chip embedded within the card. On powering up, the card transmits a pattern that is detected and received by the reader.
The first of the proximity technologies was 125kHz. When a 125KHz card comes within the range of a reader, the card is powered by the RF and immediately transmits its card number. The data transmitted is not encrypted and is always the same. While it is lower in cost and offers a good read range (10cm) and a short read time, it is not as secure.
The ability to copy 125kHz cards has existed for more than 20 years. Proximity 125kHz copy and emulation circuits have been available to the public for many years, and it is quite easy to purchase cloning devices online. Anyone can now copy the 125kHz cards and there are even kiosks that offer card cloning services.
While EM Cards are highly popular, the danger of easy cloning needs to be highlighted and where security is a prime consideration, we would advocate using other technologies or even using two-factor authentication to secure the premises.
MIFARE standard was created s a ticketing solution for transport systems by enabling two-way communication between cared and reader.
Card numbers are stored in one of the storage areas on the card, known as sectors. When the card is presented, the card and reader begin a secure communication session using shared encryption keys. Once this is established, the card number is transmitted and the communication session is closed off. This process happens very quickly, though it still takes a slightly longer time than for a 125kHz system.
MIFARE comes in many forms, each with its advantages and disadvantages. The newest and most secure of the MIFARE standards is the MIFARE DESFire. However, it comes with a reduced read range (1-2cm) and the card needs to be firmly presented to the reader and held in place until access is granted.
With automation and integration, it is expected that MIFARE will take over EM as the defacto standard not just for card access but for banking, transportation and even shopping.
HID Global is an American manufacturer of secure identity products. The company manufacture and sells physical access control products and licenses several types of card technologies from Wiegand to 13.56 MHz iCLASS, MiFare and DESFire.
Their cards are proprietary to their readers. Similarly, their readers can only read HID Cards. In recent years, they developed a Multiclass reader that can read all cards.
HID Prox Cards are simply proximity cards branded by HID. Like other proximity cards, it is a simple ID card. But it can only be read by HID Prox Readers like the ProxPoint. The range of cards available in this range includes the ProxCard II, ISOProx II, DuoProx II, ProxCard Plus, ProxKey, MicroProx and the ProxPass II.
HID Smart Prox are cards that enable two-way communication, making the transfer more secure. The card has a memory chip embedded. The range of Smart Cards includes the iCLASS Prox and the Mifare Prox. The readers that can read these cards would be the iClass, MultiClass and the latest Sign Readers. (see HID Prox Card Comparision Chart)