Viruses, identity theft and computer piracy are not isolated incidences that have only recently occurred. However, recent developments have prompted a call for increased security measures. The Playstation Network hack, for example, led to the theft of more than 77 million names, addresses and other personal data, and cost Sony PlayStation millions of dollars in lost sales and internal man-hours. These publicity nightmares not only cause a loss in revenue, but a loss of customer faith, which no company can afford to spare in today’s economy. As piracy and identity theft are committed more frequently, smart card connectors have provided enhanced security for businesses and consumers. Manufacturers are developing smart card connectors that are highly reliable, compact and provide piracy protection in numerous applications including banking, metering/vending and, most importantly, point-of-sale (PoS) applications. These connectors comply with communication protocol requirements and are surface mountable to be compatible with pick-and-place assembly equipment.

ec1106mc102Fig1Additional Security
The design, development and performance of smart card connectors play a pivotal role in preventing piracy in point of sale applications. The connectors, integrated within anti-piracy systems, enable end-users to address concerns of identity theft, and the equipment manufacturer can provide greater security by developing a customized connector for the specific application, which also include sealing and protections against the probes of those looking to steal personal identification information.

PoS terminal manufacturers and connector manufacturers continuously collaborate in developing solutions that enhance security in PoS devices. Some solutions that have been offered are using a standard connector mounted on the PC board and implementing an anti-piracy system in the terminal. While a standard connector may seem like an attractive alternative due to the initial price, it requires additional implementation time, increasing the cost and size of the final product. A more cost-effective alternative is to add increased security within the entry connector’s terminal tracks, resulting in a more effective approach to preventing piracy.

The use of multiple interconnected layers around the connector can detect many types of intrusion. The detection module protecting the contacts also adds to this first level of protection, preventing any attempt to probe the device.

To meet reliability and security demands, smart card connectors comply with the VISA PCI PED requirements, such as C&K Components’ CCM02 smart card connectors pictured below. This additional protection eliminates the capability for a hacker to insert a bug on the connector and extract the PIN details. The surface mount connectors are RoHS-compliant and designed for 100,000 and 500,000 card insertion cycles. Additional space is available under the connector to place other SMT components as well. (Figure 1)

Increased Reliability
Reliability is particularly important when manufacturers are searching for connectors that feature piracy protection and enhanced lifecycles, since many applications require the connector to be capable of extended use while simultaneously protecting against probes of a would-be hacker. The standard sliding connector is constructed so that the credit card slides over the contacts when it is inserted and retrieved. A device like this has a life of approximately 100,000 cycles. A longer life span of about 500,000 cycles is one of the features in a landing system. The contact rises and touches the card only when it is inserted, allowing for the longer life span. New designs and experimenting with different materials have led to new sliding connectors that are able to reach 500,000 cycles. These unique connector capabilities ensure a secure contact to smart card readers for reliable and safe data transmission.

Easy Integration
The compact, surface mountable design of connectors that are essential to meeting the level of security and functionality required by PoS terminal manufacturers, and smart card connectors are capable of providing increased protection against piracy in PoS applications. Manufacturers and customers who employ SMT assembly lines require smart card connectors to be pick-and-place assembly compatible and surface-mountable in order to ensure their integration is cost-efficient. These devices must also feature a reduced size for space constraints in certain applications. Smart card connectors are continuing to be more and more popular in PoS terminals, and therefore, they must be compact enough to meet space requirements for wireless and wired applications. A compact design is also more stable during mounting, and creates an air gap between the contacts and card entry slot, reducing electrostatic transfer to the PC board.

The added security, high reliability and ease of integration has led the majority of manufacturers around the world using SMT manufacturing lines to employ smart card connector solutions. Smart card connectors are able to provide the added security of PoS applications against hackers and identity thieves who are becoming more and more sophisticated in their craft. In order to maintain customer faith in data security and avoid publicity nightmares, it is necessary to take all precautions, including limiting the components that are introduced to the devices.