ISO/IEC 7816-4:2020—Identification Cards

A woman making a contactless credit card payment at the flower shop with her integrated circuit card adhering to ISO/IEC 7816-4:2020.

Integrated circuit cards are not only more secure than cards with magnetic strips, but they also provide more functionality. They are a part of numerous electronic devices, mobile devices, and credit cards. ISO/IEC 7816-4:2020—Identification Cards – Integrated Circuit Cards – Part 4: Organization, Security And Commands For Interchange specifies organization, security, and commands for interchange of integrated circuit cards.

What Is an Integrated Circuit (IC) Card?

An integrated circuit (IC) card, or chip card, is a payment card. Instead of using traditional magnetic strips to store a cardholder’s information, IC cards use an embedded microchip (integrated circuit). A user inputs their secret PIN number or password to verify their identity; this process increases the security of IC cards.

IC cards are made of plastic or a similar material and are most often associated with specific credit cards known as EMV or chip-&-pin credit and debit cards. They are primarily used in credit cards and debit cards, and they are also frequently used in other settings, such as employee identification cards. The many types of integrated circuit cards fit into two main categories: memory cards and microprocessor cards. Smart cards are utilized in numerous fields and applications throughout the world. They help to provide identification and allow for the storage of data.

ISO/IEC 7816 Series for Identification Cards

ISO/IEC 7816 is a series of standards that specifies integrated circuit cards and the use of such cards for interchange. These cards are identification cards intended for information exchange negotiated between the outside world and the integrated circuit in the card. As a result of an information exchange, the card delivers information (computation result, stored data) and/or modifies its content (data storage, event memorization). Some parts of ISO/IEC 7816 are specific to cards with galvanic contacts and certain parts specify electrical interfaces. Other parts of the series like ISO/IEC 7816-4:2020 apply to cards accessed by contacts and/or by radio frequency.

What Is ISO/IEC 7816-4:2020?

ISO/IEC 7816-4:2020 is intended to be used in any sector of activity. This standard is independent from the physical interface technology. It applies to cards accessed by one or more of the following methods: contacts, close coupling, and radio frequency. ISO/IEC 7816-4:2020 specifies the following:

  • Contents of command-response pairs exchanged at the interface
  • Means of retrieval of data elements and data objects in the card
  • Structures and contents of historical bytes to describe operating characteristics of the card
  • Structures for applications and data in the card, as seen at the interface when processing commands
  • Access methods to files and data in the card
  • A security architecture defining access rights to files and data in the card
  • Means and mechanisms for identifying and addressing applications in the card
  • Methods for secure messaging
  • Access methods to the algorithms processed by the card. It does not describe these algorithms

ISO/IEC 7816-4:2020 does not cover the internal implementation within the card or the outside world. Also, if the card supports simultaneous use of more than one physical interface, the relationship between what happens on different physical interfaces is out of the scope of the standard.

What Is the Difference Between Integrated Circuit (IC) Cards and Regular Cards?

The method that an integrated circuit (IC) card uses to store information is completely different from traditional credit cards. Traditional credit cards use magnetic tape to store information. IC cards, however, use an embedded IC chip to store a large amount of information directly on the card itself and allow a consumer’s information to be accessed when the payment card is used in a contactless payment method like a card reader, whereby the chip can be read over a short distance, further avoiding the use of a magnetic stripe. Magnetic strip cards have been frequently duplicated, allowing identity thieves to create copies of the original card as well as sell the account information they have illegally accessed. The use of the embedded chip in IC cards can reduce such fraud since it makes skimming a less effective means of accessing account information.

An IC chip can also perform mathematical calculations. Overall, cards containing an IC chip are difficult to counterfeit and decrypt, making them a much more secure choice.

Types of Integrated Circuit (IC) Cards

The many types of integrated circuit (IC) cards fit into two main categories: memory cards and microprocessor cards. Included in those categories are SIM cards, credit cards, and smart cards:

  • SIM cards are used in mobile phones to store data (e.g., phone numbers and text messages) and to authenticate the user to the network.
  • Credit cards have an embedded microchip that stores information about the cardholder and the account.
  • Smart cards are used for a variety of purposes, such as payment, access control, and identification. They have a microprocessor and memory that can store and process information.

ISO/IEC 7816-4:2020—Identification Cards – Integrated Circuit Cards – Part 4: Organization, Security And Commands For Interchange is available on the ANSI Webstore and in the ISO/IEC 7816 – Identification Cards Package.

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