Smart Card Software

What is Smart Card Software

Smart card software, known as Middleware, enables computer applications to talk to the computer chip on the smart card.

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. The 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.

Smart Card Middleware is Required

Smart card middleware must be installed on your computer before you can use your HHS smart card ID badge to log on to a computer, digitally sign documents, or read encrypted email. Windows 7 and Vista has middleware built-in; however, built-in middlewmay not work with the new 128k PIV card and does not offer the additional functionality of the ActivClient middleware (e.g., ability to update/renew your certificates at your desktop).

ActivClient middleware may already be installed on your computer. On a Windows PC, ActivClient is installed if one of the following icons appears in the system tray:

ActivClient taskbar icon, that looks like a grey, diamond shaped smart card reader. or ActivClient taskbar icon, that looks like a grey, diamond shaped smart card reader with   a smart card inserted into it. when smart card is inserted in reader.

Obtaining Smart Card Middleware

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.