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FAQ's - Hid MiFare

  1. What is MIFARE?
  2. What is unique about the HID MIFARE offering?
  3. What is the typical read ranged associated with MIFARE contactless card reader?
  4. Can you use a MIFARE contactless card reader on an existing access control system?
  5. How much memory does the HID MIFARE card offering have?
  6. Why is HID offering a card with both HID proximity and MIFARE technology in one card?
  7. How many sectors does a MIFARE card have?
  8. How many applications can be performed with one MIFARE card?
  9. If I want to write my own application to a MIFARE card, can HID help?
  10. Which ISO standard does the MIFARE card meet?
  11. Is MIFARE data encrypted?
  12. If my access control panel cannot handle the MIFARE 32-bit card serial number, is it OK to truncate this number (drop some bits off) or convert it to a 26-bit number?
  13. Is there a cost difference between MIFARE and proximity technologies?
  14. If I would like to order HID's MIFARE products, what information is available?
  15. How can I get more information?

1. What is MIFARE?

MIFARE technology is a 13.56 MHz contactless technology that is owned by Philips Electronics. They do not make cards or readers, but they make and sell the card and reader chips on the open market. Card and reader manufacturers such as HID use this technology to create unique products for use by end-users.

MIFARE is often considered to be a "smart card" technology. This is based on the ability to read and write to the card. In reality, MIFARE is simply a memory card (as opposed to a processor card).

The MIFARE contactless smart card and MIFARE card reader/writer were originally developed to handle payment transactions for public transportation systems. With a short read-range, MIFARE was uniquely suited to perform increment/decrement functions. Although contact smart cards could also do the job, contactless readers are faster and easier to use, and there is virtually no maintenance on the readers, or wear and tear on the cards.

To date, the use of MIFARE for contactless access control applications has been limited. This is due to the short read-range when compared to the options available with proximity (125 kHz technology).

2. What is unique about the HID MIFARE offering?

HID is unique in its ability to provide readers and cards specifically configured for access control OEMs requiring formatted Wiegand output. HID will have the capability of programming OEM data into one of the sectors on the MIFARE cards, and will be able to provide cards programmed with any facility code, format, and numbering sequence currently available in 125 kHz proximity cards.

The HID readers can find HID OEM data on the MIFARE card, and will output that data via the Wiegand port.

HID's capabilities can be contrasted with most other MIFARE reader suppliers who satisfy the Wiegand requirement by taking the Philips random chip ID and converting it to a 32 bit Wiegand output, or by cutting it down to a 26 bit Wiegand output. By basing the output on a random number, it is impossible to provide a sequential series of numbers, or a specified number range. Also, cutting off part of a large random number (called truncating) creates a risk of number duplication (called aliasing).

3. What is the typical read-range associated with a MIFARE contactless smart card reader?

The typical read-range on a MIFARE contactless smart card reader is 1.0" to 3.9" (i.e., 2.5 to 10 cm). In North America, due to FCC (power) restrictions, read-range will be on the lower end of the scale.

4. Can you use a MIFARE contactless smart card reader on an existing access control system?

The MIFARE contactless smart card reader may be used on an existing access control system. There are a few technical considerations:

The standard MIFARE card is factory programmed at Philips with a unique 32-bit serial number. This is a random number and does not contain a facility code. If you are currently using another bit format on your access control system and wish to use a MIFARE 32-bit contactless reader/card simultaneously, be sure to verify that the access control system in use will accept multiple bit formats and facility codes simultaneously.

As an alternate, you may order a MIFARE card from HID with one of the available sectors of the card pre-programmed in the same bit format as is currently being used. In this way, the access control system will "read" both HID proximity and HID MIFARE cards in the same way. Please note that you must configure the reader such that it knows "where to look" for the format.

5. How much memory does the HID MIFARE card offering have?

HID uses Philips MIFARE S50 module with one (1) Kbytes of EEPROM memory. HID uses this module to manufacture both HID MIFARE cards and HID Proximity and MIFARE cards.

6. Why is HID offering a card with both HID proximity and MIFARE technology in one card?

Many HID customers are currently using HID proximity for access control. The customer now wishes to use MIFARE technology for cashless vending or transit. Since the customer only wants to carry one card, it makes good sense to have one card with both technologies.

Likewise, many customers are currently carrying a MIFARE card for cashless vending or transmit applications. This is highly likely outside of North America. The customer is now interested in implementing an access control system using proximity. Again, the multi-technology card allows for use of a single card with multiple applications.

7. How many sectors does a MIFARE card have?

The MIFARE card has 16 separate sectors, which can be configured as purses or for general data storage. The first sector is typically used as a directory for the rest of the card, leaving 15 segments available for data or purses.

8. How many applications can be performed with one MIFARE card?

Up to 15 different applications can be stored on a MIFARE card, and these applications will be separate and secure from one another by using unique keys (passwords) for each sector. The only requirement is that the various application providers must cooperate in the programming of the MIFARE Applications Directory (MAD), and that the keys to this directory must be available to all application providers.

9. If I want to write my own application to a MIFARE card, can HID help?

A Developer's Resource Kit is available. Included with the DRK is access to HID's Engineering Support Team. Click here for more information about the DRK.

10. Which ISO standard does the MIFARE card meet?

MIFARE is a 13.56 MHz contactless technology that is described under ISO 14443 Type A. This card is designed to allow you to embed an optional contact smart chip module; if done, this card would be ISO 7816 compliant as well. This card is designed to have a magnetic stripe on the card. In this configuration, this card would be ISO 7811 compliant as well.

11. Is MIFARE data encrypted?

The RF data transmission between the mifare card and reader is encrypted. However, the data that we store on the card is not encrypted. Access to the data is protected by a 48-bit key, so it can only be read by an HID reader containing a matching key.

MIFARE technology does allow for mutual authentication between the card and reader. A random number is generated; based upon the keys, a message is sent from the card to the reader. The reader then does the same back to the card. This is done three times to authenticate that the card being presented is valid.

12. If my access control panel cannot handle the MIFARE 32-bit card serial number, is it OK to truncate this number (drop some bits off) or convert it to a 26-bit number?

Truncating the card serial number of any contactless smart card creates a risk of number duplication (called aliasing). Here is an example of aliasing caused by truncating: Suppose you had three different cards – 111234, 211234, and 661234. Now suppose that in the reader or panel firmware, you truncate the number (make it smaller) by cutting off the two highest digits, producing – 1234,1234, 1234. Obviously, three different cardholders with unique cards will now be seen by the system as the same person.

Actually this applies to any contactless smart card (not just Mifare) and, in general, it is NOT a good idea to use the card serial number to uniquely identify an individual due to this problem and the fact that the CSN is not a secure number.

13. Is there a cost difference between proximity and MIFARE technologies?

Based on the read/write capability of MIFARE, it is typically more expensive than proximity.

14. If I would like to order MIFARE products, what information is available?

HID's MIFARE products, including the read/write MIFARE reader and both card types (i.e., HID MIFARE and HID Proximity and MIFARE) are shown in the HID How To Order Guide. This provides the detailed information you need to place your order. Click here for the full HTOG, presented in PDF format.

15. If I would like more general or technical information on MIFARE, can you help?

HID is providing a white paper and an Application Note (#25) on this website.

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