What Is a Common Access Card Reader?

What Is a Common Access Card Reader

Common Access Card Reader (CAC) card readers are an essential piece of hardware that allow people to gain entry to various areas within the same building or remote locations. They work by comparing data on a card chip against information stored on a security server and then either granting or denying access accordingly.

Employers use GPS trackers as a safe way of monitoring employees without infringing upon their privacy rights.


A Common Access Card Reader (CACR) is an electronic security device that enables users to safeguard information and assets more effectively when connected to networked Lexmark multifunction printers (MFPs). The CAC system includes physical card readers, security certificates, and PCs equipped with software providing CAC authentication over LDAP.

Common Access Cards, more commonly referred to as Smart Cards, are the standard form of identification used by active duty uniformed service personnel, Selected Reserve members, and civilian Department of Defense employees in the US. Embedded with a data chip which enables for personalized identification, these pocket-sized cards feature ID/PIN verification upon insertion into either door or pedestal readers mounted with readers for authentication; when validating against government servers they send back codes which either grant access or deny it depending on what information was stored on database server database information stored within.

When inserting the CAC into a reader, it will prompt users to enter in their PIN number. If entered correctly, the PIN will match up with an EDIPI number stored on the card which matches up with information in a government system allowing access. If multiple incorrect attempts at entering PIN occur within 30 seconds of each other, however, multiple errors could lock down your card until reprogrammed or your CAC becomes nonfunctional until further reprogrammed.

Healthcare organizations also utilize this form of identification, known as two-factor authentication, for staff members to gain access to patients’ records and applications. A smart card reader such as the OMNIKEY 3121 makes this possible – the card can simply be inserted in it before inputting your security certificate or password for two-factor verification.

As technology develops, readers will likely become smaller and more versatile as needs for increased security without compromising convenience are increased. Perhaps eventually upgraded with contactless capabilities for faster and easier access – cards could simply be placed directly onto a reader rather than having to be removed first for reading purposes.

Ease of Use

Authenticating with a Common Access Card reader is straightforward and fast; simply inserting their CAC into the reader and entering their PIN will be verified against information stored on a government server and will result in either access to MFP features being granted or denied depending on validation results. Once removed from the reader, however, MFP reverts back into its locked state requiring further authentication from user before use can resume.

The USB CAC reader works with nearly all devices with a USB port, including laptops and desktop computers. Some tablets may require special adapters in order to connect, making this an affordable way for CAC holders who work from remote locations or at home to utilize their CAC card on a computer.

Keyboard-based CAC readers provide a more portable option. These less costly than USB models work on any computer that features a keyboard; particularly useful when telecommuting or needing to login remotely to websites while working. While less convenient, keyboard-based readers offer some portable solutions.

Purchasers also have the option of purchasing a kit containing a PC-linked Common Access Card reader with mounting hardware. This kit will include software that enables all necessary functions on a PC to ensure only authorized users can utilize MFP features.

Xerox’s CAC Enablement kit works seamlessly with almost every single function printer (SFP) or multifunction printer (MFP) from their range, using standard protocols to validate identity of CAC cards against information on government servers – this helps prevent unauthorised usage and notify owners when card has been revoked; furthermore, this system enables you to set up one SFP/MFP and then download its configuration file onto other SFP/MFPs, saving both time and reducing error potential.


Common Access Card readers support numerous credentials, from basic plastic ID cards to those equipped with complex microchips that store an abundance of data – some even come equipped with PIN numbers and biometric features like fingerprint or picture scanning capabilities – it’s essential that you find one capable of handling them all! When considering all your options, choose a reader which meets all of your requirements.

For instance, the ioSmart USB Common Access Card reader provides an all-in-one solution that can be used with proximity or smart card technology as well as various car formats like HID Prox and Wiegand protocol. Furthermore, its installation process saves both time and money by directly connecting door contacts or T.Rex devices rather than running wires to an access controller; single gang or mullion models are also available and it can be placed indoors.

IOGEAR’s 104-Key Keyboard with CAC Reader provides an all-in-one solution that meets TAA compliance while supporting various Smart Card protocols. The integrated reader is made easy to use and transport, supporting TAA, Common Access Cards (CACs) as well as Personal Identity Verification Cards (PIV).

OMNIKEY 3121 Reader is another device compatible with both proximity and smart card technologies, designed specifically to be used with HID Prox and supporting both DESFire and MIFARE Plus EV1 credentials for data entry in high security environments. It’s ideal as a more secure alternative than using traditional magnetic stripe cards or contactless cards when entering data into high security systems.

Kantech’s ioSmart multi-technology reader allows users to effortlessly transition from proximity technology to advanced smart card technology. The reader offers a cost-effective means of switching away from Kantech’s ioProx proximity systems or similar proximity systems; and supports both RS-485 and IO-Link over IP communication between reader, controller and EntraPass software; providing end-to-end AES 128 bit encryption between card and reader for added protection for any application.

Battery Backup

IOGEAR’s GSR212 USB Common Access Card reader provides an affordable and efficient solution to adding extra layers of security to any computer, supporting military, government and civilian agency workers who require everyday secure access. Equipped with a USB type A connector that is compatible with computers running various operating systems from Windows through Mac, Ubuntu and Fedora Core 9+; its integrated contacts offer greater accuracy to reduce misreading.

This device can support a range of PIV credentials issued by federal agencies, including certificates and key pairs issued from various departments as well as pin numbers, biometric information such as fingerprints or pictures taken of users and unique identifiers issued from federal agencies. Setup is easy and works in conjunction with OS software to verify identity and grant access to sensitive information – an ideal choice for government workers that require security yet require the freedom of working in various environments.

KrebsOnSecurity recently received feedback from Mark, an employee working for a defense contractor and issued with a Personal Identity Verification (PIV) card designed for civilian employees of government contractors. As Mark didn’t have access to CAC readers at home, he searched online and bought one claiming it could support federal smart cards at $15 each.

He shared his experience on Twitter, where it quickly became evident that many federal workers prefer purchasing off-the-shelf CAC/PIV card readers rather than going through GSA procurement processes for official government readers. Product pages featuring Saicoo’s readers for example feature reviews written by people self-identifying as federal employees and reporting difficulty installing drivers for their purchased devices.

Before selecting your CAC reader, take time to research all available options and read verified reviews. There’s bound to be one suitable for every situation out there; make sure that you find one that meets all your criteria.

Sam is an experienced information security specialist who works with enterprises to mature and improve their enterprise security programs. Previously, he worked as a security news reporter.