Smart Card Reader

What is a Smart Card Reader

A smart card reader provides the physical connection between your HHS smart card ID badge and applications on your computer.

A smart card contains a gold computer chip that not only stores public key infrastructure (PKI) digital certificates and their associated private keys, but performs cryptographic functions (i.e., encryption and decryption) with those certificates and keys. The smart card reader provides the physical connection between the smart card's computer chip and your computer.

Smart card software, known as middleware, is the communications link (e.g., translator) between applications on your computer and the specialized computer code located on the smart card chip.

A horizontal series of four images representing:  a smart card, a smart card reader,     smart card middleware, and a computer application.  Each image is connected to its ajoining images with a double headered arrow. 

There are three types of smart card readers:

USB Built-in to Keyboard Built-in to Computer
Image of a SCM Microsystems USB smart card reader Image of keyboard with a built-in smart card reader Image of laptop computer with a smart card inserted in a slot located on the left side of the laptop

Most computers at NIH are required by NIH Smart Card Authentication Policy to be equipped with a smart card reader by December 31, 2010.

Obtaining a Smart Card Reader

Your IC is responsible for providing you with a smart card reader. Please contact the NIH IT Service Desk to request one.

ICs may acquire any transparent reader (i.e., smart card reader) on the GSA FIPS 201 approved product list.

Information and Assistance

For additional information, search the NIH IT Knowledge Base for tutorials, instruction sheets and user guides or refer to the appropriate How-To Guide.

For questions or user support, please contact the NIH IT Service Desk.