CAC Reader: Do you know it all?

Unfortunately, the CAC reader is a necessary piece of equipment when it comes to security. In the midst of technological evolution, many organizations are facing threats in terms of security breach. Nowaday's criminal organizations exist who's main objective is to sabotage government agencies by intruding and hacking into government facilities. The Department of Defense is one of many government organizations that are subjected to attacks like these, where the perpetrator's purpose is stealing confidential files. To combat this, the Department of Defense issues a specific smart card, the CAC or Common Access Card, which can be scanned with a device known as a CAC Reader. Only active military and reserved personnel including non DoD government employees, civilian employees, national guards and appointed contractors are issued with CAC's. Read on to learn more about this security infrastructure.

cac reader

CAC Reader: the Basics of Using a Common Access Card

The CAC reader reads Common Access Cards that serve as an identification card that are used to access facilities, networks and computers.

The information on the cards is useless without a CAC reader, because the smart cards contain encrypted data that needs to be decrypted by CAC card reader software. By using this device a computer can interpret the data on the Common Access Card and send it to the DoD (Department of Defense) servers for authentication and certification. Some military personnel are trying to use their smart cards at home, however they are likely to have problems in terms of access with regular smart cards. In this case a military CAC has to be used in order to access the secure military servers remotely.

The CAC reader is used for the following reasons:

  1. easier log-in to Army Knowledge Online (AKO), to change a password and to avoid having to go through knowledge base authentication.
  2. comply with the DoD and AKO requirements that took effect on December 1, 2011
  3. easy access to digitally signed forms such as an Officer Evaluation Report (OER) and Non Commisioned Officer Evaluation Report (NCOER)
  4. allow access to Defense Travel System or DTS.
  5. Defense Connect Online (DCO) access on virtual meetings.
  6. access to Citrix servers.
  7. access to other military CAC enabled websites.
  8. access to correspondents
  9. access to My Pay or other finance related DoD departments.

Logging in to AKO with the military CAC does not require a reader, unless a need password change is needed. The CAC reader is only required when trying to access AKO from home, when using a non-assigned unit and when the assigned unit requires to read two smart cards simultaneously. If there are enough reasons to obtain a CAC reader, choosing the appropriate reader is the next step.

cac reader example

Choosing a CAC Reader

There are several types of CAC readers to choose from. Currently there are 27 readers with either Windows or Mac cac card reader software. Most of CAC readers work as an external USB device; some are integrated in the keyboard or built into laptops.

Once the right CAC reader is selected, the next step is to install the driver for the Cac card reader software. Bear in mind that installing the wizard sometimes does not require installing the driver separately, because it will automatically do so during the hardware installation. The next step is to install a DoD certificate. Refer to the video below to see instructions on installation.

Even with a CAC reader, military common access cards will not work without the DoD certificate. The importance of having the certificate is to authenticate the ID that is being used to get access. For details on obtaining and installing a DoD certificate, refer to the video below.

Next step in the process is installing the ActivClient. See below video on the instructions on installing ActivClient.

Next in the process is getting the Lotus form, these are the programs and forms used by Army and the Air Force. Please see the video below for further instruction.

The latest version of CAC card reader softwarestrong> to download and install is the ApproveIt 6.5. If problems occur during the installation, restart the computer and execute all the steps again. The military CAC requires that all the steps described above are executed properly in order to ensure security for accessing confidential information within the organization. To allow access from remote locations, the CAC reader is essential.

cac readers