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Costly smart cards are currently being hawked around as the universal panacea for portable credential management. My question is: Why bother with these, when a far cheaper, more flexible and more convenient soultion is at hand, in the form of the humble 3.5 inch floppy disk?
These would contain
separate credential files, each signed by an appropriate trusted authority, and encrypted with a passphrase known only to the bearer. The disk would also contain a bootable DOS, and a decryption program.
The whole bundle could be zipped and stored on the bearer's home website. There are many advantages to this scheme. The user can create a backup disk, for use when the main disk becomes corrupt, is lost, or stolen (theft is not a compromising problem, since the credentials are encrypted). If the backup, too, is lost, then a new disk can be created by downloading the backup zip from the home website. All this needs nothing more than access to a normal networked PC, with no additional equipment.
Compare this to the rigmarole which would no doubt be necessary to obtain a replacement smart card at short notice.
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||That's just a high-capacity version of a magnetic stripe card (and those are already in widespread use).
||Smart cards have some advantages. A malicious or broken reader can't erase the card. They can contain unencrypted private keys and arbitrarily complex logic to determine when to use them, without anyone being able to read the key itself. Backward compatibility is easier, since you can have software that supports multiple interfaces.
||Now, does the ability to have secure processing (which is what a smart card gives you) matter for any given application? *shrug*
||I think one of the biggest downsides to using a 3.5" disk is just how flimsy they are. I personally hate using them and avoid it at all costs. Especially if I have to have them in a purse/wallet situation. They break, files get corrupted, it's just a bad scene.. Smart cards don't have moving parts. Plus, if you start to try to integrate them into the generalized tech environment, you really limit the audience to people who "know computers"--not actually, but perceptually.
||Floppies don't fit into credit-card sized pocket in wallets. That's why not to bother with 3.5" floppies.