I have related questions about a smart ID card reader for my MacBook Air.

I need to insert a Smart ID card into a reader connected to my laptop when logged into a website for ID verification. I'm a non-technical person and this is freaking me out, but apparently people do this a lot.

  1. If I go to a random electronics store and buy a card reader will I have to download and install strange and scary software for the reader to work, or will MacOS already have something built in that will handle this safely?
  2. Does Apple make a compatible reader that would be better to use than a random one from a store, where better means some combination of safer, more reliable and more secure?
  3. I have an old 2012 MacBook Air but am buying a new 2020 MacBook Air soon. Because of the different connections will I need to buy two different readers?

I saw this answer to Easy solution to use a SmartCard with a 15" MacBook Pro? from 2011 but the item it links to is discontinued.

  • Does your provider of Smart ID card has any recommendations about any particular reader to buy/use? – Nimesh Neema May 19 at 12:56
  • @NimeshNeema I'm overseas and can't speak the language, but I suppose I could get help with that. Is it likely that an answer to this question would require specific information from the website? – uhoh May 19 at 13:04
  • That may certainly help. – Nimesh Neema May 19 at 13:05
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    @uhoh it says " Use a general-purpose wafer card reader." So I think that you can buy some card reader, & install the drivers/ apps it gives. github.com/OpenSC/OpenSC/wiki/… apps.apple.com/us/app/smart-card-utility/id1444710309?mt=12 etc – ankii May 19 at 13:40
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    @ankii wow thanks! I'm always worried about installing random drivers from links written on the back of boxes, those look a little more friendly. – uhoh May 19 at 13:47

A CAC (Common Access Card) or Smartcard reader is just a USB device that reads an authentication device in much the same way a USB SD or CompactFlash card reader reads those media. The age and/or model of your Mac is irrelevant.

What’s important is the OS. Most card readers are compatible with macOS, But Catalina introduces some changes; specifically the change from the legacy TokenD to the new TokenCryptoKit framework. More information can be found in the Apple Support document Prepare for smart card changes in macOS Catalina. Basically, you may need to configure Catalina to use the older framework if the software you’re using hasn’t updated. Your IT support staff will have to address this for you as they will be the ones who know if this is the case.

As far as what Smartcard reader to get, there are lots on the market, but I prefer to purchase from known brands; the IOGear GSR202 looks to be a good, reliable product.

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  • Thank you for your answer, this information, especially about the OS is very helpful! btw I have no "IT support staff"; this is is a function available to the general public. – uhoh May 22 at 3:48
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    I can’t answer that. I don’t know the software you’re using and I’m not going to make statements regarding its functionality because I’m not the developer. So, the support of the scanner with the OS is “publicly available” but whether or not the software uses TokenD or not is up to the software developer. – Allan May 22 at 3:52
  • Okay, as far as I understand there won't be any specific software, the Smart Card ID will be confirmed by a web page. I'm totally new to this so I'll first go get a card reader and see what happens next. Thanks! – uhoh May 22 at 4:51

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