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Keeping your wits while deploying Smart Cards

Shane CorellianShane Corellian

Smart Cards are popping up just about everywhere. It probably helped that the U.S. Department of Defense was an early adopter of these cards (for the DoD these are called Common Access Cards, or CACs).

In addition to having yet more plastic into put in your wallet, Smart Cards require that hardware and software be installed onto each workstation and laptop. If your organization is or will be using Smart Cards, then here are some gotcha’s that you’ll want to look out for.

  • Installing the software (including future upgrades) is serious business. Problems installing can lead to the inability to log on (very few things in life will prove to be more career limiting that preventing your entire organization from logging on).

  • Some upgrades require installation when the user is logged off, and a reboot is sometimes forced (i.e. you cannot defer the reboot to another time).

  • Smart Card software operates at a very low level to Windows, which is another way of saying “tread lightly.”

If you encounter an Error 1603, you may be pushing the software to a system that already has the installation, or more likely, has a partial installation. In this case you’ll want to try uninstalling the software and reinstalling. Be sure to install with the appropriate computer (or domain) credentials and don’t forget the reboot.

There are a lot of resources for Smart Card issues. Rest assured that with millions of DoD Smart Cards in circulation (yes, I said millions) there has been a lot of activity on message boards and KB’s for the Smart Card vendors. Chances are very good that someone has felt the very pain that you may be feeling with your software deployment.

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