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Are CAC (Common Access Cards) worth it?

A buddy of mine Richard Bejtlich, a known security blogger and consultant, had this article on his blog... I made a big long comment about it.. displayed below, and linked above...

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Yes. The CAC is used for signing on, email signing and encryption, web authentication, basically anything that can be done, or is done with a certificate.

It's only being used in NIPR (Unclassified) systems. It has a magnetic strip on the back that is blank, and can be coded for swipe doors at whatever location you are currently working at.. (problem is, most DOD facilities have proximity cards).

Could this be implemented in a commercial setting? Yes. But at what cost? What what expense? What do you gain out of it? When I worked for DOD, all I got out of the deal was a headache... implementation, it became our ID, which.. only SOME people accepted (like, the gate guards on post wanted our Drivers License sometimes -- grrrr) going to get a new one every three years, using it for sign-on, using it to get in the building. Here's the kicker. Say you left it in your computer at night, your computer would screensaver lock after a while, no problem.. but you couldn't get back in the building the next day!

Annoying is the key. I never liked it. The Email signing and authentication never worked across all platforms with ease. Doesn't work with ALL email clients. (and IMO, trying to say something like "well everyone MUST use OUTLOOK" is not an answer, it's a 'way out'.) Ours didn't work with sign on to the network. The only feature about the CAC that I DID like, is when I walked away from my computer, I took the CAC out of the reader, and viola... my computer locked.

That was about it. Now. You know whats kinda cool (but involves us going back to terminals), is Sun's (yes Sun Microsystems, as much as I hate Sun...) card that you can carry from machine to machine and wherever you plug it in.. you can call up YOUR desktop. That's a descent idea. However, no one likes dummy terminals. I digress.

Could it be done? Yes. Is it worth it? No. Not in my opinion.


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