Pick a Card, Any Card: Fast and easy Windows logon using any NFC smart card

After finally reinstalling Windows on my main PC (the smart card components in the old install were trashed), I dusted off the old smart card reader and started looking into smart card-based logon options again.

Windows logon screen using a smart card

Windows logon screen using a smart card

After finding a way to force convince the installer for EIDAuthenticate, a program that lets you use smart cards to log on a Windows computer without the use of domains and Active Directory, to run on Windows 7 Professional (Microsoft DreamSpark only lets me obtain the Professional editions of Windows), I found a program called NFC Connector Light that lets you use any NFC-compatible smart card as a means of authentication.

Virtual smart card with certificate installed

Virtual smart card with certificate installed

NFC Connector Light links the unique identifier in an NFC-based smart card to create a virtual smart card on the local computer (no data is stored in the card itself), and that virtual card can be used like a real smart card within Windows. When paired with EIDAuthenticate, logging on is as simple as placing the smart card on the NFC reader and entering a PIN. This is especially useful when you set the Windows smart card policy to lock the computer when the card is removed (and it feels kind of cool to be able to lock your computer simply by taking your card off the reader).

Making Use of a Motorola Smart Card (part 1 of ???)

(Disclaimer: Trying to pirate satellite TV using hacked smart cards is dumb and wrong; I am writing this article merely to explore the card and the field of smart cards in general, and to provide some sort of documentation on this otherwise unknown card.)

Back in the summer I bought four generic, blank (I assume) Motorola brand smart cards from Active Surplus during my vacation to Toronto. Over the past few weeks I’ve been doing some research and hands-on testing of what this card is (in)capable of doing.

The card itself is an ISO 7816-compliant smart card that uses the asynchronous (UART) T=0 byte-wise protocol and communicates using industry standard APDU (application protocol data unit) commands.

The card is a dual-interface card; it has the standard six-contact chip and also has an antenna for RFID. There is an antenna coil 3 windings wide around the perimeter of the card and connects to the chip itself. So far I have not had any progress in getting it to contact an RFID reader, but hooking up an LED from the chip’s Vcc to ground causes it to flash when brought up to a BlackBerry Bold’s NFC antenna.

The chip has an answer-to-reset of 3B 76 13 00 00 80 62 07 41 81 80. When parsing this via the PysCard smart card library (http://smartcard-atr.appspot.com/parse?ATR=3B76130000806207418180) the site identifies it as a “Generic mass produced Motorola smart card” which doesn’t get me any further than what I already know; the Motorola logo is in the center of the darn chip!

Current attempts to make use of the card have been unsuccessful. It responds with 0x6D00 (unknown command) on pretty much every industry-standard command I try. The only command that doesn’t give this is 0xC0 00 00 00, which is the “GET RESPONSE” command which returns 0x6F00 (generic error, no details available).

Attempts to get the card running with PC/SC have not gone far. The system will acknowledge its existence and with a bit of work in the Registry, I can get it to register as a “Generic Motorola SmartCard”. That said, this still doesn’t get anywhere. Attempts to use it to store credential certificates causes Windows to say that ‘the card is not the one required for the current operation.’

I think that the card may simply be unprogrammed and is merely running a bootloader to install firmware on, but since many smart cards have mask ROM, there is a chance that the card is of pretty much no use. But hey, for 50 cents for a smart card it’s no big loss.
If you know anything else about this smart card, gimme a shout in the comments section. I’ll be posting more updates as I find out more about this peculiar piece of plastic.