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AES - Advanced Encryption Standard: A secret-key encryption algorithm.
Anti-collision - A feature commonly used in contactless card systems to prevent conflicts between different signals competing for attention at the same time.
APDU - Application protocol datagram unit. These are the frames that are exchanged at application-level between an application running on the computer and a smartcard. The format of those frames is defined by ISO 7816-4 and checked by the system's PC/SC stack. The command (application to card) is called a C-APDU and consists at least of four bytes denoted CLA (class), INS (instruction), P1 and P2 (parameters). The response (card to application) is called a R-APDU and consists at least of two bytes denoted SW1, SW2 (status word). Note that this is a request/response scheme: the smartcard has no way to send something to the application unless the application asks for it.
API - Application Programming Interface: A definition of calling conventions through which an application program accesses to other services such as the operating system, drivers, databases, or middleware layers.
Applet - A compact program that can be downloaded quickly and used by a remote computing device. Applets are typically written in Java.
ATR - Answer to reset: A message that is returned by a smartcard when it is powered up or when its reset pin is activated. The ATR indicates the card type, communication protocol and other basic information.
Authentication - The process whereby a card, terminal or person proves who they are. A fundamental part of many cryptography systems.
CCID - Circuit Card Interface Device. A subset of the USB specification that is the standard for USB based smartcard readers.
CD - Coupling device or coupler. A device able to communicate with an ICC. This is what everybody calls a smartcard reader. Technically speaking it could be seen as a gateway between the computer and the card.
Certificate - A file, digitally signed by a Certification Authority. There are many different types of certificates (the most common being X 509 V3).
Certification Authority - The organization that issues certificates and takes liability associated with the validity of the holder's identity. Often financial and institutional organizations.
Checksum - A count of the number of bits in a transmission unit so that the recipient can make sure the correct number of bits arrived and that the message is intact.
CMOS - Complementary-symetry/metal-oxide semiconductor. Two important characteristics of CMOS devices are high noise immunity and low static power supply drain. Significant power is only drawn when its transistors are switching between on and off states; consequently, CMOS devices do not produce as much heat as other forms of logic such as TTL. CMOS also allows a high density of logic functions on a chip.
Compiler - A compiler is a computer program (or set of programs) that translates text written in a computer language (the source language) into another computer language (the target language).
Confidentiality - Guarantee that a message will be legible to no-one other than the intended recipient. Confidentiality is an essential part of cryptography systems.
CPU - A central processing unit (CPU), or sometimes simply processor, is the component in a digital computer that interprets instructions and processes data contained in computer programs.
CRC - Cyclic Redundancy Check. A popular mean of ensuring transmissions have not been garbled.
CryptoAPI - A Microsoft API that offers system-level access to common cryptographic functions in Windows systems.
Cryptography - The science of ensuring that messages are secure. Cryptographic systems are based on the concepts of authentication, integrity, confidentiality and non-repudiation.
DES - Data Encryption Standard. The most widely used secret key encryption algorithm (orginally developed by IBM in 1977). A strengthened version of DES called triple DES (or 3DES) is commonly used in bank cards.
DESFire - The MIFARE DESFire is a special release of Philips SmartMX platform. It is sold already programmed with a general purpose software (the DESFire operating system).
Digital Signature - An electronic signature created using a public-key algorithm. A digital signature can be used by the recipient to authenticate the identity of the sender and to ensure the integrity of the message.
EEPROM - Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory. Special non-volatile memory whose content can be erased and new data can be reloaded electrically. In smart cards EEPROM is typically used for application data and for certain filtered functions.
EMV - Europay - Mastercard - Visa. The specifications and the certification process dedicated to the smartcards (and readers) used in banking applications.
Encryption - A cryptographic procedure whereby a legible message is encrypted and made illegible to all but the holder of the appropriate cryptographic key.
External Authentication - The procedure used to authenticate the external world (e.g., terminal) to the card.
Firmware - Low-level software that is similar to hardware features. This software operates by exchanging commands directly with an external device or with a specific software loaded in the product.
Hash - A crytographic functions that computes a fixed-size digest of any message, so the recipient can make sure the message has not been altered.
I2C - I²C is a serial computer bus invented by Philips that is used to attach low-speed peripherals to a motherboard, embedded system, or cellphone. The name is an abbreviation for Inter-Integrated Circuit. I²C uses only two bidirectional open-collector lines, serial data (SDA) and serial clock (SCL), pulled up with resistors.
ICC - Integrated-circuit card. This is the standard name for a plastic card holding a silicon chip (an integrated circuit) compliant with the ISO 7816 standards. A common name is smartcard.
ICCD - Integrated Circuit Card Device. A particular implementation of CCID, where the "reader" and the "smartcard" are a single device. The "smartcard" is actually an electronic component and not a plastic card.
Integrity - Guarantee that a data (or code) has not been modified in transit. Integrity is an essential role of cryptography systems.
Internal Authentication - The procedure used to prove that the card is genuine using an algorithm, a random value and a secret key. The authentication process can be further distinguished between passive authentication in which the same values are used each time (e.g., PIN) and active authentication in which an algorithm and variable values are used.
Interoperability - The ability of products manufactured by different companies to operate correctly with one another.
ISO 14443 - This international standard defines the PCD/PICC communication scheme. It is divided into 4 layers: 1. Defines the hardware characteristics of the PICC, 2. Defines the carrier frequency and the bit-level communication scheme, 3. Defines the frame-level communication scheme and the session opening sequence (anti-collision), 4. Defines the transport-level communication scheme (sometimes called “T=CL”). The application-level is out of the scope of ISO 14443. Most microprocessor-based PICCs implement ISO 7816-4 on top of ISO 14443-4. A lot of wired logic PICCs (NXP Mifare family, ST MicroElectronics ST/SR families, to name a few) implements only a subset of ISO 14443, and have their own set of functions on top of either ISO 14443-2 or ISO 14443-3. Note that ISO 14443-2 and ISO 14443-3 are divided into 2 protocols called 'A' and 'B'. A PCD shall implement both, but the PICCs implement only one of them1. Four communication baudrates are possible: 106 kbit/s is mandatory, higher baudrates (212, 424 or 848 kbit/s) are optional.
ISO 15693 - This international standard defines the VCD/VICC communication scheme. It is divided into 3 layers: 1. Defines the hardware characteristics of the VICC, 2. Defines the carrier frequency and the bit-level communication scheme, 3. Defines the frame-level communication scheme, the session opening sequence (anti-collision/inventory), and the command set of the VICC. All VICCs are memory chips. Their data storage area is divided into blocks. The size of the blocks and the number of them depend on the VICC. Note that ISO 18000-3 mode 1 is the same as ISO 15693
ISO 18092 - NFC Interface and Protocol-1 : This international standard defines a communication scheme (most of the time refered as “peer to peer mode”) where two peer “objects” are able to communicate together (and not only a PCD and a PICC). The underlying protocol is ISO 14443-A at 106 kbit/s and the Sony Felica protocol at 212 and 424 kbit/s.
ISO 21481 - NFC Interface and Protocol-2 : This international standard defines how an NFC object shall be able to emulate an ISO 14443 PICC (and maybe an ISO 15693 VICC). When NFC objects are running in this “card emulation mode”, any PCD/VCD is able to communicate with them.
ISO 7810 - This international standard defines the size of the smartcards. The 'credit card' format (86x54mm) is called ID-1. A smaller format has been introduced for SIM cards (used in mobile phone) or SAM (secure authentication module, used for payment or transport applications) and is called ID-000. Bigger formats are ID-2 for ID-cards and ID-3 for passports.
ISO 7816-3 - This international standard defines two communication protocols for ICCs: T=0 and T=1. A compliant reader must support both of them.
ISO 7816-4 - This international standard defines both a communication scheme and a command set. The communication scheme is made of APDUs. The command set assumes that the card is structured the same way as a computer disk drive: directories and files could be selected (SELECT instruction) and accessed for reading or writing (READ BINARY, UPDATE BINARY instructions). More than 40 instructions are defined by the standard, but most cards implement only a small subset, and often add their own (vendor-specific) instructions.
Java - A network-oriented programming language invented by Sun Microsystems. Java was specifically designed so that programs could be safely downloaded to remote devices (e.g., Web pages, smart cards, etc.).
JavaCard - A set of specifications for running a subset of Java on a smart card.
JVM - Java Virtual Machine. An essential element of the Java programming language. The JVM is an abstract computing machine with its own instruction set and memory. A JVM is included in each release of Java (J2ME, J2SE and J2EE).
Key - A value that is used with a cryptographic algorithm to encrypt (or sign) data. The longer the key, the more secure the encryption.
MD5 - A hash algorithm developed by RSA Lab.
Microprocessor-based card - An ICC (or a PICC) whose chip is a small computer. This is the case of high-end cards used in payment, transport, eID/passports, access control... Key features are security, ability to store a large amount of data and to run an application inside the chip. Most of the time they implement the command set defined by ISO 7816-4.
Mifare - This trademark of NXP (formerly Philips Semiconductors) is the generic brand name of their PICC products. Billions of Mifare Classic cards have been deployed since the 90's. This is a family of wired-logic PICCs were data storage is divided into sectors and protected by a proprietary1 stream cipher called CRYPTO1. Every sector is protected by 2 access keys called 'key A' and 'key B'. NXP also offers another family of wired-logic PICCs called Mifare UltraLight (adopted by NFC Forum as Type 2 NFC Tags). Mifare SmartMX (and former Pro/ProX) is a family of microprocessor-based PICCs that may run virtually any smartcard application, typically on top a JavaCard operating system. Mifare Desfire is a particular microprocessor-based PICC that runs a single general-purpose application.
NFC - Near-field communication. A subset of RFID, where the operating distance is much shorter than the wavelength of the radio waves involved. This is the case for both ISO 14443 and ISO 15693: the carrier frequency is 13.56MHz, leading to a wavelength of 22m. The proximity and vicinity ranges are shorter than this wavelength.
NFC Forum - An international association that aims to standardize the applications of NFC in the 13.56MHz range. Their main contribution is the NFC Tags specification.
NFC Tag - Any PICC which contains data formatted according to the specification published by NFC Forum specifications. Doing so, the data are 'open' and therefore understandable by any compliant application.
Non-Repudiation - Guarantee that a sender cannot falsely deny having sent a message. Non-repudiation is an essential role of cryptography systems.
OCF - OpenCard Framework. The framework that provides programmers with an interface for the development of smart card applications in Java.
Off-Line - A transaction during which no direct connection is made to a central computer facility.
On-Line - A transaction during which a direct connection is made to a central computer facility (usually via the public telephone network, computer networks, or the Internet).
OSI - Open Systems Interconnection. A model that was proposed by the ISO as common framework to design the communication standards. OSI uses a modular approach, dividing different functions into seven distinct layers.
Padding - One or more bits appended to a message in order to ensure that it contains the required number of bits or bytes.
PC/SC - The de-facto standard to interface Personal Computers with Smart Cards (and smartcard readers of course). SpringCard PC/SC Readers comply with this standard. This makes those products usable on most operating systems, using an high-level and standardized API.
PCD - Proximity coupling device. A device able to communicate with a PICC, i.e. a contactless reader compliant with ISO 14443.
Personalization - Process during which a smart card is modified to contain the information for one person. Graphical personalization modifies the visual aspect of the card (holder's name, photograph). Electrical personalization modifies the information in the card's chip.
PICC - Proximity integrated-circuit card. This is the standard name for any contactless card compliant with the ISO 14443 standards (proximity: less than 10cm). This could either be a smartcard or a memory card, or also any NFC object running in card emulation mode. Common names are contactless card, or RFID card, NFC tag.
PIN - Personal Identification Number. The number or code that a cardholder must type in to confirm that he or she is the genuine cardholder.
PKCS - Public-Key Cryptography Standards. A set of standards developed by the RSA Laboratories.
PKI - Public Key Infrastructure. The infrastructure necessary to manage and enable the effective use of public key encryption technology, particularly on a large scale.
POS - Point Of Sale terminal.
Public Key - A cryptographic system that uses two different keys (public and private) for encrypting and signing data. The most well-know public key algorithm is RSA.
RFID - Radio-frequency identification. This is the general name for any system using radio waves for M2M communication (machine to machine, in our case PCD/VCD to PICC/VICC).
RS-232 - RS-232 is a standard for serial binary data interconnection between a DTE (Data terminal equipment) and a DCE (Data communication equipment). It is commonly used in computer serial ports. The RS-232 standard defines the voltage ±12 V levels that correspond to logical one and logical zero levels.
RS-485 - RS-485 is an OSI Model physical layer electrical specification of a two-wire, half-duplex, multipoint serial connection. The standard specifies a differential form of signalling.
RSA - Rivest-Shamir-Adleman. The most widely used public key encryption algorithm, named after its creators. Also the name of the company who manages the PKSC standards.
SAM - Security Access Module. A dedicated microprocessor unit that conducts active authentication with a memory or microprocessor card. The SAM is often a smartcard in the ID-000 form factor.
SDK - Software Development Kit. A set of development utilities meant for writing software applications, usually associated with specific environments.
Secret Key - A cryptographic system that uses a single key for encrypting and signing data.
SHA-1 - A hash algorithm developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Security Agency.
SIM - Subscriber Identification Module. A smart card for mobile phone systems (GSM) holding the subscriber's ID number, security information and memory for a personal directory of numbers thus allowing him to call from any device.
SmartPoster - A particular type of NFC Tag which contains an URI (action to be performed: open a web page, send a SMS, call a phone number...) and a Title (explanation to be displayed to the user).
Terminal - Any device that can communicate with a smart card (e.g., reader, coupler...). Certain terminals can operate in standalone mode, while others must be connected to a central information system to access an application.
TTL - Transistor-Transistor Logic. All standardized common TTL circuits operate with a 5 volt power supply. A TTL signal is defined as "low" or L when between 0V and 0.8V with respect to the ground terminal, and "high" or H when between 2V and 5V.
UART - A universal asynchronous receiver/transmitter (usually abbreviated UART, which is pronounced "you art") is a type of "asynchronous receiver/transmitter", a piece of computer hardware that translates data between parallel and serial interfaces. Used for serial data telecommunication, a UART converts bytes of data to and from serial bit streams represented as electrical impulses similar to Morse code. UARTs are commonly used in conjunction with other communication standards such as RS-232.
USB - Universal Serial Bus. A standard Input/Output bus that supports very high transmission rates. Up to 120 devices can be daisy-chained to a USB port.
VCD - Vicinity coupling device. A device able to communicate with a VICC, i.e. a contactless reader compliant with ISO 15693.
VICC - Vicinity integrated circuit card. This is the standard name for any contactless card compliant with the ISO 15693 standards (vicinity: less than 150cm). Common names are RFID tag, RFID label.
Wired logic card - An ICC (or a PICC, or a VICC) whose chip is only able to store some data, and features a limited security scheme (or no security scheme at all). They are cheaper than microprocessor-based cards and therefore are widely used for RFID traceability, loyalty, access control...