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Information Security Office

Harvard Issues New ID Cards After Security Breach

Harvard University will issue new identification cards that use Smartcard technology to college undergraduates and students at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences this fall. This will be the first phase of a security upgrade that comes after a Harvard undergraduate student was caught in November duplicating ID cards that belonged to the university's president and two other administrators, The Harvard Crimsonreported yesterday. Harvard has been using its swipe-card system for 15 years. The new cards, similar to those used at Princeton, Yale and MIT, do not need to be swiped and they carry encrypted information that supposedly makes them more difficult to hack. But Michael L. Lichten, assistant dean for physical resources, told The Harvard Crimson he was "not sure" the new cards are more secure than the traditional swipe-access cards. Last year's security breach was particularly worrisome because the university's ID numbers are linked to Crimson Cash, a debit account that Harvard community members use to pay in several campus facilities. The university did not advise its students to check for suspicious activity in their cash accounts until two months after catching the undergraduate student making fake IDs. Harvard does not plan to separate the ID cards from the debit accounts, which will still be accessed through the swipe portion of the new cards. But the university plans to transition to using the second magnetic strip of the card plus a combination of 16 digits as the way to access the cash accounts in the future.--Maria José Viñas