State Department wants more memory

The State Department, already bumping up against the memory limits of the smart cards it uses today, is looking to the next generation of technology to support its future needs.

The 32K smart cards now in the hands of 19,000 State Department workers don't have enough memory to hold future applications, such as a secondary biometric identifier and individuals' medical records, said Alan Herto, chief of the department's systems integrity division.

Herto spoke today at the 2004 Biometric Consortium Conference in Arlington, Va.

The State Department is issuing smart cards to 45,000 users who need access to physical facilities as well as the department's OpenNet Plus unclassified network.

The memory in those cards fills up fast because the State Department uses match-on-card technology for validating identities through fingerprint biometrics. Rather than storing fingerprint images in a central database, State Department smart cards store the templates in local memory to secure the information and speed processing.

The smart cards also contain users' public key infrastructure certificates for digitally protecting data across the department's network.

PKI authentication still presents a performance bottleneck because certificates must be matched against a server-based revocation list, Herto said. He encouraged industry to come up with ways to reduce the PKI performance hit, which is most noticeable at State Department sites that have slow network connections.

If performance doesn't improve, Herto predicted, users "will be yelling for their passwords back."

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