Common access cards (CAC) are authentication cards issued by the US Department of Defense (DOD) to military personnel, government and state employees, and contractors.
However, today, the use of CAC cards has expanded to the corporate and banking spheres as part of the fight against data breaches.
To access sensitive government, bank, or corporate data with your CAC, you will need a CAC card reader. This post looks at some of the best CAC readers in the market.
Why Do You Need a CAC Reader?
Data breaches are a common occurrence today, carried out by many threat actors, including hackers and identity thieves. Governments are also hacking governments, businesses, and individuals in a cyber-warfare in which you shouldn’t want to be a pony.
The disheartening fact is that no one is immune to the pervasive nature of cyber threats.
If you handle sensitive government or corporate information, authentication by CAC helps to minimize the risk of data breaches. For that matter, to get access to a website or database with restricted rights, you will need a CAC reader that uses secure encryption technology.
Other benefits of CAC readers include:
- You can use them to access securely stored information on smart cards including pins, passwords, credit cards, and family contacts.
- You can use them to remotely access classified government information that you have rights to.
- They strengthen data integrity; as soon as you unplug your CAC reader, your session on a website ends automatically.
- You can pay bills or contact business transactions securely.
How to Buy a CAC Reader
I’m in the Navy Reserves and rarely stays at one place for a whole week. I always need to access DOD’s CAC restricted websites on the go. In the early days, my experience with CAC readers wasn’t rosy.
Some were so fragile that they would break after a few weeks of use. For others, compatibility with my OS was always problematic.
Since I couldn’t possibly do without them, I had to invest time into research to find the best buy. Things are much better now. I have a model that works seamlessly and feels durable. Here are some of the tried and tested buying criteria:
Security is of paramount importance
The main reason for using a CAC is to achieve a high level of data protection. The encryption on your CAC reader should be hard to crack. Otherwise, cyber-criminals could still get hold of your sensitive information.
How do you tell whether a CAC reader is secure enough? Look for standards compliance and certifications: ISO/IEC 7816, USB CCID, PC/SC, EMV 2011 Ver 4.3 Level 1 and GSA FIPS 201, and others.
The card should be compatible with multiple operating systems
Avoid CAC readers that limit usage on a single operating system. The best CAC reader should be compatible with Windows, Linux, Mac, and others. Some rare models are compatible with android systems, allowing you to access your data on the go.
Find a model with a fast read rate
Some CAC readers take an eternity to connect to your card and download the necessary credentials, so you can access sensitive information. That can be a significant drawback in case of an emergency. For that reason, find a CAC reader with faster load speed.
Compatibility with CAC and smart cards
The best CAC readers are compatible with DOD issued CAC cards, government IDs, National IDs, bank and post office chips, and many others.
By now, you might have realized that the use of CAC transcends military/ government operations and corporate to personal banking and file storage. A versatile CAC reader is, therefore, more convenient and valuable.
Look for a CAC reader that is compact and portable
It would be helpful to carry around the reader with you. The best CAC reader models are as small as USB sticks. However, portability alone should not be a disqualifying factor.
It should be easy to use
Some CAC readers often need users to download and install drivers for compatibility. Others need third party software to grant you access to information, even after loading your CAC.
Such readers can be frustrating to use. Find a CAC reader that has seamless integration with your card and OS.
Best CAC Readers in the Market
[amazon link=B01EMXWPIK title=”1. Saicoo DOD Military USB Common Access CAC Smart Card Reader” /]
[amazon box=B01EMXWPIK title=” “]
The Saicoo DOD military CAC reader can be used with government ID, National ID, and many other corporate cards. Its technical versatility makes it a corporate-friendly as well as government-friendly ID reader.
You might be able to use this CAC reader with your bank ID cards, post office chips, and smart cards issued for online banking and digital signature operations.
The CAC reader can run on windows (32/64bit) XP/Vista/ 7/8/10 and Mac OS X. This easy compatibility makes it a breeze to access your information securely.
The CAC reader features a design that you might find to be sleek and ergonomic. Beware though, that unlike other CAC readers coming up in the review, this one is a little bulkier.
Nevertheless, its construction is solid. The Saicoo card reader might be able to serve you for many years. There is also a blinking light that helps to notify you when your card has successfully connected.
You might be able to use your DOD smartcard on this reader, but you will require to install a third-party CAC program.
That can be a bummer when insurgents are unleashing shells around you, and you need to go through a third party program to get into your system.
Saicoo DOD Military USB Common Access CAC Smart Card Reader Pros & Cons
- It works with military IDs and websites
- Its use extends to the corporate sphere for access to sensitive data
- It is compatible with both windows and mac operating systems
- It features a sturdy construction capable of long durability
- It might suddenly stop working for no reason
- You need the right drivers and security systems installed into your computer to use this
[amazon link=B002N3MM6W title=”2. Identiv SCR3310v2.0 USB Smart Card Reader” /]
[amazon box=B002N3MM6W title=” “]
The Saicoo CAC reader has a high level of compatibility, but the Identiv SCR3310 gives you universal compatibility. That implies that you can use this CAC reader on all contact chips cards and operating systems.
The manufacturer asserts that it works seamlessly with Windows, Mac OS, Linux, and Android. This versatility is much higher than what you get with the Saicoo CAC reader.
Besides, its Android compatibility means that you can access your sensitive government or corporate information on the go—helps with a seamless workflow.
The Identiv CAC reader is supposedly compliant with electronic card /reader standards including USB CCID, PC/SC, and ISO/IEC 7816, among others. For that reason, you can get expect a card reader that keeps your information safe.
One other notable quality here is the seamless integration. The Identiv SmartOS could help to instantly connect your contact chip cards.
The Identiv CAC reader is designed for speedy operations. You might find that your certificates load much faster in this model than in the Saicoo CAC reader
Identiv SCR3310v2.0 USB Smart Card Reader Pros & Cons
- It’s compatible with all major operating systems including android
- It features an ergonomic design that is also aesthetic
- It’s compliant with smart cards standards
- Can work on 32- and 64-bit operating systems
- Compatible with nearly all contact chips
- Its design is not compact
- You might experience occasional connecting problems with this CAC reader
[amazon link=B00G46Y7CG title=”3. Gemalto IDBridge” /]
[amazon box=B00G46Y7CG title=” “]
The Gemalto IDBridge CAC reader is compatible with most government IDs and company access cards. It is made to adapt to all ISO7816 smart cards. Meaning you could safely access your organization’s website/database away from the prying eyes of hackers.
The manufacturers assert that the card is approved by many IT and banking organizations. However, you might be required to download Smart Card drivers and Gemalto IDBridge drivers to use this CAC reader.
Unlike the other models in this review, Gemalto IDBridge features a compact design. That helps with portability. It can fit in a standard size postal envelop.
Its non-removable cable promotes efficiency and speedy connections. It’s marketed as capable of reading and writing to ISO 7816-1, 2, 3, 4 microprocessor cards.
Ideally, such functionality would make it possible to edit data to CAC cards. But perhaps you should take that assertion with a pinch of salt.
Unlike the Saicoo CAC card reader, the Gemalto IDBridge model is compatible with many operating systems including Window 7, 8 and 10, Mac OS X and Linux. You can, therefore, expect speedy authentication regardless of your OS.
Gemalto IDBridge Pros & Cons
- It can read and encode smart chips
- Its design makes it easily portable
- It has a transparent design that might come in handy when troubleshooting glitches
- It holds cards securely in place
- Its durability is questionable
- It’s mostly a CAC reader, not a writer
[amazon link=B015QVIJFA title=”4. Rocketek SCR10″ /]
[amazon box=B015QVIJFA title=” “]
The Rocketek SCR10 CAC reader weighs just 0.3. Its design is akin to a USB stick. This CAC reader is by far the most compact in the review. Portability is a cinch since you can just slip it into your pocket shirt.
I like the fact that the Rocketek SCR10 is a cordless CAC reader. That means that your workspace will be less cluttered by cables. It being cordless also makes it possible to work remotely on the go.
The other noteworthy fact about it is that it is a hybrid device, doubling as a CAC reader and an SD card reader at the same time. As an SD card reader, this device can load up to 2 terabytes of data.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Rocketek has made this CAC reader compatible with military IDs, National IDs, Government IDs, bank cards, post office cards, and digital signature cards for corporations. Your intended use will likely not fall outside this scope of usability.
The Rocketek SCR10 CAC reader is compatible with Windows 7, 8, 10, Linux, and MacOS.
Rocketek SCR10 Pros & Cons
- It is compatible with all major operating systems
- It is compatible with government, military, and national ID cards and also supports banks and post office chip cards
- Its design has a short-circuit and thermal protection
- It’s light, compact and highly portable
- An LED light comes when your ticket has successfully connected
- You might find its read rate to be super slow
- Durability is not assured
[amazon link=B073TZ6JQN title=”5.Stanley Global SGT111-9 CAC PIV Smart Card Reader” /]
[amazon box=B073TZ6JQN title=” “]
5. Stanley Global SGT111-9 CAC PIV Smart Card Reader
The Stanley Global SGT111-9 CAC PIV Smart Card Reader is a USB type CAC reader with a 12-inch connection cable. It comes across as averagely compact and lightweight. You might be able to carry it around with ease.
The card is made for both desktop and mobile users, so the manufacturer says. Its range of functionality includes compatibility with government applications, network login, online banking, and credit card apps, among others.
You might be able to get a long time of use with this CAC reader, given its sturdy plastic build.
Its chipset is compact, and the device uses a type C connection. You might, therefore, be able to get fast and secure access to your accounts or restricted information.
Just like the Identiv SCR3310v2.0, this CAC reader is compatible with many of the operating systems, including Windows, Android and Mac OS X. That means that you can take your work on the go without authentication restrictions.
Stanley Global SGT111-9 CAC PIV Smart Card Reader Pros & Cons
- Compatible with all major operating systems
- It is lightweight and portable
- It comes with a convenient retractable cable
- Its drivers are hard to install
- It might suddenly stop working for no reason
The Best Pick
The [amazon link=B002N3MM6W title=”Identiv SCR3310v2.0 USB Smart Card Reader” /], stands out as the best CAC reader in this review. This smart card reader has universal compatibility with all major operating systems (32bit and 64 bit) and government/corporate chip cards.
The fact that it has android compatibility means that you can access your information via mobile devices.
The CAC reader is compliant with many industry standards (ISO/IEC 7816, USB CCID, PC/SC, EMV 2011 Ver 4.3 Level 1, and GSA FIPS 201). It also offers a seamless integration giving you instantaneous access authentication.
The Identiv SCR3310v2.0, USB Smart Card Reader comes with the Identiv SmartOS that expedites connectivity with your CAC regardless of your operating system. These features and many others make the Identiv CAC Reader a worthwhile investment.