In connection with the widespread use of computers, the user has to think about the security of the processed information. The first step in securing is to authenticate a legitimate customer. Most often, a password is used as a verification tool. Besides, more than 60% of users, as practice shows, apply the same passwords to different systems. Needless to say, this significantly reduces the level of security. What to do? One way to solve such a problem is to use external authentication keys.


How Does This Identification Work?

Outer verification includes using the following scheme: the gadget itself is something that you have + a PIN code to it — something you know. Cards appeared earlier than other hardware keys, but the implementation of ideas using them was slowed down. From the beginning there was no single standard, when every manufacturer tried to make sure that its solution did not work on a competitor’s reader, then there were no massively pre-installed readers and free ports for connecting external readers. All this served as an impetus for the emergence and development of a new class of mechanisms — USB tokens. They can be positioned between memory and “entry tickets” in terms of their security characteristics, usability, functionality and price characteristics. Those devices can be called a key fob, which combines both a smart card and a reader. Among their advantages are:

  1. No reader needed (there is always a USB port).
  2. More functionality (memory, indication).
  3. One gadget can be used to solve many problems.
  4. Psychologically, such an appliance is perceived as a key.


Tips for Working With an External Authenticator

Following pieces of advice will ensure the long life of tokens, smart cards, and their readers, as well as the preservation of user confidential information:

  1. For your password to be safe, it should not consist of only digits (it is easier to peek behind your back), be too short and include characters located on the same line on the keyboard. Waive using of significant words (your name, date of birth, wife’s maiden name), which can be easily picked up or guessed.
  2. Connect the gadget to the computer only while working directly with the system.
  3. Avoid power surges of the computer and the USB bus when the joint is connected, and also do not remove the token or card reader from the port during recording and reading. It is forbidden to remove the device during the writing and reading procedure.
  4. It is important to protect identification setup from strong mechanical stress, high and low temperatures.
  5. If the verification connector is clogged, measures must be taken to clean it. Use a dry cloth to clean the connector. The use of water, solvents and other liquids is not permitted.


Protection Options

In the simplest case, the external tool is a certificate and the user has to present it in one way or another to the system. At the same time, tokens or smart cards can serve as a means of implementing other authentication factors. For example, there are such which generate one-time passwords for manual entry. In this case, the device itself is not a certificate, since the authenticity of the user is determined not by it, but by parole. Gadgets can be used to store electronic digital signature data and to create them. They need to contain a cryptographic provider — software that performs conversions.

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