Common Access Card Reader

It’s a good idea to have a Common Access Card (CAC) reader on hand for travel or if you are going to be away from the office for a long period of time.  You never know when your profile information with your company or government agency sends crucial emails or notifications that you should be aware of.  To stay informed and up to date with taskers or emails regarding your career, it’s wise to have a smartcard and CAC reader with you.  CAC cards are part of the CIA triad, as something you have.  A CAC card acts as a token to authenticate to webservers to access company or government information.

To use a CAC card on your personal computer, you will need to have the required components needed to authenticate and be granted access to vital resources.  You will need to have a token, which is your smart card, a smart card reader, and software.

There are many stores that sell CAC card readers.  You can buy a common CAC card reader for your smartcard from the BX, or from Wal-Mart or office supply stores.  These readers connect to your computer using a USB connection.  CAC readers are compact by design and simple to install.

The single most important component to have when using your smartcard on your personal machine is to have the right software installed.  Ask your company for the required version of software needed to access information.  Active Client is a common CAC reader software used to establish an encrypted connection.  You will also need to have the right driver software installed on your computer.  Be sure to download and install the correct driver or your smartcard reader will be rendered useless.

After you’ve found a place to buy CAC readers, and have installed the correct Active Client and driver software; you can insert your CAC card into the CAC reader and access enterprise portals.  DoD CAC’s are loaded with certificates issued by a certificate authority.  These encryption files run through an algorithm and “shakes hands” with the web server to prove you are eligible to access the information advertised.  Smartcards offer security needed for companies and governments required to protect the integrity of government and proprietary information.  When the “hand shake” has been completed between your computer and the web server, you will be prompted to enter a PIN.  This PIN access is another variant needed to authenticate, so remember to memorize your PIN associated with your CAC Card.


  1. Never leave your CAC in a public computer or readily available for someone to steal your smart card.
  2. Do not place your CAC near powerful magnets, this can corrupt the microchip or scramble the information stored on the CAC Card.
  3. Never drop anything heavy onto the CAC because the chip may become damaged.
  4. If your CAC Reader doesn’t recognize your smart card, you can rub a pencil eraser on the microchip to clean the surface.  Cleaning the surface of the chip will help the CAC Read and the Software to initialize properly.
  5. Never leave your CAC in direct sunlight, this can warp the plastic and damage the chip.


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