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March 2002

Top three benefits of smart cards

Smart cards may look like any other plastic card with a magnetic stripe on the back, but they're a radically different technology. While consumer advertising has tried to downplay the differences between smart cards and normal credit cards -- other than to tout them as "safer" -- the differences are what make smart cards worth considering. 1. Persistent, protected storage. Persistent storage is an obvious piece of the smart card, and one that makes it similar to an ordinary mag-stripe card. Smart cards have memory; how much memory depends on the application, but 4K to 32K is typical. While this is dramatically more than what can be stored on a mag-stripe card, the key to the storage is protection: You can't just wipe the card against a reader and expect to pull everything off it. While experts have determined that a scanning electron microscope can circumvent the protection built into a smart card, this is not the kind of tool you can pick up at Radio Shack. 2. Processing power. Most smart cards have a small CPU, which means ...

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