If you’re a military member or dependent, the Common Access Card is your ticket to get access to buildings and computer networks. It’s also an important ID for civilian employees, non-DoD government employees and select reserve members and national guard personnel.
A CAC is a smart card that stores a PIN and an EDIPI number, which it uses to authenticate users to their computers or networks. Under contract to the Department of Defense, Exponent helps to increase the reliability of these smart cards and their peripherals by performing testing and failure analysis.
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What is Common Access Card?
Common Access Card, or CAC, is a smartcard that is used as the standard identification for active duty military personnel, selected reserve, DoD civilian employees, and eligible contractor personnel. It enables physical access to DoD buildings and protects sensitive information by leveraging public key infrastructure (PKI) security certificates. It also fulfills two-factor authentication and digital security requirements.
The CAC is approximately the size of a credit card and has a magnetic stripe on the back. It is issued to military and non-military personnel by the Department of Defense (DoD).
It can be used for a variety of tasks, including logging in to DoD computer systems and government networks. It is a common form of identity credential in the DoD and is available in four different versions.
To use a Common Access Card, you insert it into a reader and then enter your PIN. The reader matches the PIN to your stored PIN and verifies it. This two-factor authentication is a security feature that is often used in combination with other security methods, such as passwords or biometrics.
CACs are the most widely deployed identity credential in the DoD, with millions of active-duty service members, activated reservists and National Guard, DoD civilian employees and eligible contractors using them to log in and access DoD resources. They also document affiliation with the DoD and provide access to military services, programs and benefits.
As the world’s largest ID card scheme, the CAC has become a key part of security, readiness and efficiency. It is highly resistant to identity fraud, tampering, counterfeiting and exploitation and offers an electronic means of rapid authentication.
However, CACs can be difficult to use with mobile devices and require the issuer to replace them when they are lost or damaged. Additionally, smart cards are vulnerable to differential power analysis attacks.
Fortunately, technologies that promise to strengthen the security of CACs in the future are starting to make their way into the marketplace. According to Kayvan Alikhani, senior director of technology at security solutions provider RSA, these technologies include fingerprint readers, optical recognition and verification, and micro-chips that allow a user’s finger to be recognized and matched by the reader.
How do I get a DoD Common Access Card?
Whether you’re active duty, a reservist or a contractor, your DoD Common Access Card (CAC) is an important part of your military experience. It’s a credit card-sized identification badge that has been used by service members since 1999 to get onto bases, use military computers and more.
Getting a DoD CAC is easy and convenient. It’s available to active duty armed forces, activated reservists, DoD civilian employees and eligible contractors.
You’ll need your DoD ID number, also called the EDIPI number, to get a CAC. It will be a unique number that your sponsor, or your command’s ID card office, will use to verify your identity and authorize the card’s use.
Your EDIPI number is stored in a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) certificate that protects your personal information and helps to verify that you are the correct person for the job. The certificate also contains your six digit personal identification number (PIN) that you’ll need to access your CAC.
The PKI certificates on your CAC are used to encrypt your emails, verify your identity, and protect your data from hackers and other threats. They’re important for protecting your DoD network from potential security breaches.
In addition to your EDIPI number, you’ll need your government unclassified email address if you want to use the CAC on your work computer. You’ll be able to enter your email address online or at your local ID office.
Once you’ve entered your government unclassified email address, it’s time to complete your DoD CAC issuance process. The ID office will verify that you’re an eligible individual to receive a CAC by running a DoD National Agency Check, or if you have an FBI fingerprint check, they’ll run a National Criminal History Check and submit a request for investigation (NACI or higher).
Once you’ve completed the issuance process, you can start using your DoD CAC to get access to buildings, controlled spaces, DoD computer networks and systems. Having your CAC can help you stay safer and more secure throughout your entire DoD career. It’s a smart and simple way to make sure you’re ready for any situation that may arise while in the military.
What does the Common Access Card contain?
The Common Access Card (CAC) is a “smart” ID card about the size of a credit card. It’s the standard identification for active-duty military personnel, reservists, National Guard and Defense Department civilian employees as well as eligible contractors. It enables physical and logical access to buildings, controlled spaces and computer networks and systems satisfying two-factor authentication, digital security and data encryption.
Currently, the CAC is issued to more than 24 million active-duty military personnel, reservists, and National Guard members. In addition to providing a means of identification, it also documents a person’s affiliation with the Department and gives them access to military services, programs and benefits.
It is a dual-interface smart card that provides a secure and rapid way to verify an individual’s identity, allowing them to gain access to the Department of Defense’s facilities, computer networks, and information resources. The card’s features include mandatory identification, physical and logical access capabilities, Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) authentication, encryption, and digital signing certificates.
To date, the CAC has been used to provide logical and physical access across all DoD bases worldwide. The most recent version combines contactless technology for speedy ID authentication and enhanced security.
The new CAC is a big upgrade over the old one, and it offers a host of improvements to the security of federally controlled facilities, while also making it easier for cardholders to gain access to their computers and applications. It is more resistant to tampering and counterfeiting, which can lead to lost or stolen credentials, and it’s designed for increased security at high-volume entry points such as gates, doors, elevators and bathrooms.
In addition, the new CAC offers a host of other technological advancements. It includes a 256-bit flash memory for improved reliability and faster data transfers, as well as a multi-layer encoding system to ensure that personal data is safe from damage or loss.
The Common Access Card is one of the most important innovations of the past 20 years. The issuance of over 20 million cards and related devices has resulted in a streamlined, efficient process for managing and tracking access to DoD assets. Through our work with the Defense Manpower Data Center, Exponent has helped reduce issuance failure rates due to card and printer issues by approximately half.
Can you fly with a Common Access Card?
A Common Access Card, also known as a CAC, is a smart card about the size of a credit card. It is the standard identification for Active Duty Service personnel, Selected Reserve, and DoD civilian employees. It is used to enable physical access to buildings and controlled spaces, as well as providing access to DoD computer networks and systems.
For official travel, military members must enter their DOD ID number – a 10-digit number located on the back of the Common Access Card – as their Known Traveler Number (KTN) when making flight reservations to receive TSA PreCheck benefits. This program is free for all military members and eligible civilians.
The Department of Defense is working with TSA to make it easier for service members to use TSA PreCheck. They have launched a pilot program at 10 airports that allows military members and their families to get through TSA security with only a CAC and DOD ID.
As part of the pilot, TSA has streamlined procedures to ensure military members can use the program. They have been given instructions on how to update their current and future air travel and airline profiles with their DoD ID number.
Once the updates are made, it should be easy for military members to use their DOD ID numbers for TSA PreCheck whenever they buy tickets. It’s a much faster, more convenient and safer way to get through airport security.
In addition, TSA is making it easier for military members to use the Known Traveler Number feature when booking a ticket online. When purchasing a ticket, military members can simply enter their DOD ID number from the back of their CAC into the KTN field, and they will receive TSA PreCheck benefits at the airport.
This program will also allow Coast Guard members, who have already gone through an extensive background check to obtain a Common Access Card, to use TSA PreCheck without the need for the $85 application fee and fingerprinting. This will help expedite screening and save time for service members traveling with family.
The Department of Defense is also looking at ways to improve the reliability of its CAC cards. Exponent has been helping the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) to reduce issuance failure rates due to card/printer issues by approximately half through a testing and evaluation process.