ASEKey Crypto Supports Microsoft Windows Smart Card Framework

Athena Smartcard Solutions announced that its ASEKey Crypto smart card token successfully completed the Microsoft certification program for smart card minidrivers. Minidrivers are essentially “device drivers” for smart cards as implemented in the Windows Smart Card Framework. Vendors which build such minidrivers may choose to have theirs certified by Microsoft, ensuring, for the first time, that smart cards that are certified provide the best compatibility experience for Windows customers.

Athena worked with Microsoft’s Dublin-based Smart Card Certification Center to certify a card minidriver that meets the required quality level of the forthcoming Windows logo program for smart card minidrivers. Athena’s ASEKey Crypto is a smart card based token, powered by Athena’s performance leading ASEPCOS Cryptographic Smart Card Operating System.

The ASEKey Crypto smart card token provides secure two-factor authentication as well as full cryptographic capabilities for PKI, providing RSA and Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) support in the Windows Vista environment. Athena already marketed successful customer deployment of its Windows Vista compatible products which include Contact and Dual Interface (contact/contactless) Smart Cards, Tokens, and performance leading smart card readers.

“We are delighted to see that Athena ASEKey Crypto smart card based tokens have successfully completed the program for the certification program of the new Windows Smart Card Framework,” said David B. Cross, director of program management for Windows Security at Microsoft Corporation. “Athena’s new ASEKey Crypto smart card token is yet another example of how the Windows Smart Card Framework enhances the security and user experience in Windows Vista.”

“Smart cards are proving to be the first choice for authentication devices used in secure network access. Deploying smart cards in the enterprise is made even easier by the Windows Smart Card Framework and Athena’s ASEPCOS powered ASEKey smart card tokens,” said Jochi Fuchs, vice president, business development, Athena. “Successfully exiting the pilot quality program for smart card minidrivers reinforces Athena’s commitment to provide fast and more secure Windows-compatible smart card based solutions for enterprise and government customer. By providing the new ASEKey minidriver we are widening the range of smart card form factor choices for customers of Athena’s Unified Badge secure logical and physical access solution.”

Hundreds of thousands of users worldwide utilize Athena smart cards for logical and/or physical security. Enterprises that deploy Microsoft Windows Server 2003 based computer networks looking for a single smart card based employee/customer/partner badge represent the fastest growing market for Athena’s Unified Badge smart cards and tokens. These products allow for both logical access to computer networks and physical access to facilities and services. Athena’s solutions allow for seamless integration of smart card based authentication solutions, with optional biometrics support, in large computer networks and government identity card deployments.

In Windows Vista, Microsoft introduced an entirely new layered architecture for supporting smart cards: the Windows Smart Card Framework. This new architecture is designed to simplify deployment, bring consistency to smart card interface implementations, and make it simpler to access end user smart card management features in the platform such as changing the user personal identification number (PIN) and secure unblocking of locked cards.

Windows Vista also introduces Crypto API Next Generation (CNG). CNG provides a much more flexible and robust cryptographic environment in Windows. For the first time, support for Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) is included with Windows. The Athena ASEKey Crypto Minidriver provides full support for both RSA and ECC under Windows Smart Card Framework. Athena is one of a handful of smart card technology leaders who joined Microsoft’s Dublin based Smart Card Certification Center pilot program and one of only two vendors to implement the new Minidriver plug-in with full support for RSA and ECC.

Microsoft’s Smart Card Certification Center has been working closely with early adopters of the Windows Smart Card Framework to develop a certification program that balances the needs of both Microsoft and IHVs. The result of this close cooperation will be a fully fledged certification program that will award Designed for Windows logos for card minidrivers and smart cards that meets the Windows Vista logo program requirements for smart card minidrivers. Microsoft’s Smart Card Certification Center is located in the Ireland based European Development Center.

In the coming months, Athena plans to introduce several additional products to support the new Windows Vista security architecture, and Microsoft Identity Lifecycle Manager 2007.

About Athena
Athena Smartcard Solutions, one of the industry’s fastest growing vendors, is a leading provider of smart cards, tokens, smart card readers and smart card management systems – protecting computer networks – and an innovative supplier of cards and operating systems for banking and GSM. Athena’s offices in the US, Europe, and Asia serve customers worldwide including some of the world’s leading banks, manufactures, GSM operators and Government organizations. The company’s dedicated engineering, sales, and support staff has over 20 years’ experience in smart card and security technology including some of the original innovators and developers of Java Card and inventors of key technologies of the MULTOS operating system.

Athena’s products include contact and dual interface open platform and file system based cryptographic smart cards for Windows Authentication, PIV, CNS/CIE, JICSAP, GSM, and EMV. The Athena ASEDrive line of smart card readers includes high performance USB desktop, internal, keyboard and biometric smart card readers. Athena’s cryptographic middleware solutions including the ASECard Crypto Toolkit with support for all major operating systems, and through the Athena CMS, our customers enjoy smart card life-cycle management solutions for contact and contactless cards.

ASEKey, ASEPCOS, ASECard Crypto and the Athena logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Athena Smartcard Solutions.