New credentials

For the next year, State Department employees will be required to wear their old identification cards as well as the new smart cards until the smart cards are fully phased into service. Information on the card is stored in a gold-colored chip — the size of a small thumbprint — and can be updated and changed only by an authorized administrator. It can include digital certificates for use with a public-key infrastructure, another project being developed at the department. In the next year, State officials plan to embed 2,000 digital certificates into the smart cards.

Lolie Kull, access control smart-card implementation manager for the department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security, likens the powerful microprocessors in the chip to a safe-deposit box that can only be unlocked by the person authorized to add or delete data. Each box requires a separate and unique password known only to authorized personnel.

"No one can get in and tamper with it," she said.

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