What is an electronic card reader

Online identity card: The eID functions are good for that

Peter Stelzel-Morawietz

Register your car, open a bank account, submit a tax return or call up pension information - this works quickly online with the eID function and without a special reader. We show how you can identify yourself to authorities, companies and insurance companies via the Internet.

EnlargeThe online functions of the new ID card can only be used with card readers that expressly support this.
© © Federal Office for Information Security

We stopped the time: take the smartphone in hand, install and start the ID card app2, hold the electronic ID card up to the phone, tap on “View my data” in the app and type in the six-digit security PIN - done! It takes less than two minutes for the personal data to be read out and appear on the display!

The very first time you will probably need a little longer, also because you first have to find the letter accompanying the “new” ID card and convert the temporary transport PIN into a final one. Nevertheless, it becomes clear how fast the electronic identification process with the smartphone expires; You no longer need a special card reader.

The entry barriers to digital identification are low

EnlargeIf you have misplaced the letter with the transport PIN to activate the online identification function, you will receive a new one for a fee of six euros.

That was different until recently, so you had to try out whether your own smartphone was suitable as a card reader for ID. Because the radio standards used - NFC for the phone, RFID for the ID card - were similar, but not identical. If you wanted to make sure that the digital proof of identity worked, you had to buy an external reader.

The official ID portal now lists around 300 compatible mobile devices, including unusual models. And even those who prefer to use the eID function on a Windows PC can do so without an additional reader. The compatible telephones can be connected to the desktop computer or notebook via WLAN and used to read out ID data. We'll explain in a moment how this works. Alternatively, you can use a suitable RFID card reader, which is available in stores from around 30 euros.

Install AusweisApp2 and connect it to the card reader

EnlargeOn the Windows PC, you can use both a mobile phone (above) or an external card reader (below) in the AusweisApp2 program to read out your ID data.

The prerequisite for using the eID is an identity card in the form of a plastic card in credit card format. Almost every German citizen now has it, after all, the “new” ID card was introduced almost ten years ago. In addition, the online identification function must be activated; this has been the standard for adults since 2017. Previously, when applying for or collecting a new ID, you could determine whether the eID should be active. Anyone wishing to do this received a PIN number in a letter, similar to a new EC or credit card.

But the online function can also be switched on at a later date for a fee of twelve euros. If you have forgotten your PIN or misplaced your letter, the new PIN costs six euros. However, you have to do both in person at your registration office, after all, the online function of the ID card does not work yet.

With the activated ID and the PIN letter you can start. To do this, use the AusweisApp2 software, which is available for Windows, Linux and Android. We show the steps below on Windows.

If you have an external RFID card reader, connect it to your computer via USB and install the necessary drivers if necessary. On the AusweisApp2 user interface, go to "Settings -> USB card reader" and check that the device has been correctly integrated.

Without a special reader, you can access your smartphone and use it for the Windows software. To do this, you also install AusweisApp2 on your Android phone, which is located at home via WLAN in the same network as the PC. It does not matter whether you connect it directly to the router via WiFi or cable.

Open the app on the phone, tap on the three dashes in the top left corner of the app and continue with "Smartphone as card reader -> Start remote access -> Start pairing": You will see a four-digit pairing code. Switch back to the Windows software, go to "Settings", select "Smartphone as card reader", then click on your smartphone in the list and use the four-digit code here. The phone now functions as a reader for the ID card.

Matching card readers

If you search for the terms “reader” and “ID card” on the Internet, Google also shows card readers for chip cards, smart cards and other purposes. Since such models often do not support the new ID card, we recommend referring to the official list of suitable card readers. We have had very good practical experience with the Cyberjack RFID Basis model from Reiner SCT for a good 30 euros. Such basic readers of security class 1 without display and keyboard are only suitable for identification via the Internet, but not for electronic signing. For most purposes, this is currently completely sufficient. Standard and comfort readers with keyboard, display and PIN encryption are significantly more expensive.

See also:Connect the RFID reader to your PC

How to use the new ID card digitally

EnlargeLast step: Before you can use the online function of your ID card, you must change the temporary transport PIN to the final secret number.

Before using it online for the first time, AusweisApp2 asks you to change the five-digit provisional transport PIN to a final six-digit secret number. You can define these individually. To do this, rub off the left field on the PIN letter and follow the wizard in the software to set the new PIN. Only then is the eID function activated and can be used. The personal number protects against misuse of the digital function if you lose your ID. Because the PIN is requested every time it is used online, it is also ensured that only the legitimate owner can identify himself as such. Keep the new PIN in a safe place, for example in a password manager.

You can simply test how online identification works in principle with AusweisApp2. To do this, click in the program on "Self-assessment -> View my data -> Continue to enter your PIN". After entering your PIN, the family, birth and first name, date and place of birth as well as the saved home address appear.

Is the online ID secure?

Electronic identification is much safer, so showing your ID or the video identification process, which has been misused again and again in the past few months. The eID function is secured by two factors and requires the PIN in addition to the document itself. If you lose your ID, the online function is blocked after three incorrect PIN entries and can only be reactivated with the additional PUK on the PIN letter. Conversely, if someone steals your secret number via a keylogger on the PC, they would also need your ID in order to steal your identity. Therefore, a basic security class 1 reader without its own keyboard is usually sufficient - or a smartphone for reading.

That is possible with the electronic identity