What Is a Mifare Card?

Mifare Cards are a proprietary high tech card which is basically a kind of contactless smart card or proximity card. There are different forms of Mifare cards in use today – here are the chief types.

MIFARE Classic (Standard)

The MIFARE Classic card is basically just a memory depository mechanism, where the memory is divided into segments and blocks with clear security mechanisms for access control. They are ASIC based and have defined computational capacity. Thanks to their dependability and low cost, those cards are widely used for electronic billfold, access control, corporate ID cards, transportation or stadium ticketing.

The MIFARE Classic 1K offers 1024 bytes of data storage, split into 16 sectors; each sector is defended by two different keys, called An and B. They can be programmed for operations like reading, writing, increasing value blocks, etc.. MIFARE Classic 4K offers 4096 bytes split into forty sectors, of which 32 are identical size as in the 1K with eight additional that are quadruple size sectors. MIFARE Classic mini offers 320 bytes split into five sectors. For each of these card types, 16 bytes per sector are appropriated for the keys and admission conditions and can not normally be used for user data. Also, the very first 16 bytes hold the serial number of the card and certain other manufacturer data and are read only. That brings the net storage capacity of these cards down to 752 bytes for Classic 1k, 3440 bytes for Classic 4k, and 224 bytes for Mini.

The simplicity of the basic cards means that they are cheap, which is largely the explanation for their ascendancy in large-scale deployments, such as the Oyster card.

MIFARE Ultralight

The MIFARE Ultralight has only 512 bits of memory (i.e. 64 bytes), without cryptographic security. The memory is provided in 16 pages of 4 bytes.

This card is so inexpensive it is often used for disposable tickets for events such as the Football World Cup 2006.

MIFARE Ultralight C

Introduced at CarteS 2008, MIFARE Ultralight C is part NXP’s low-cost MIFARE offering (disposable ticket). With Triple DES, MIFARE Ultralight C deploys a widely adopted guideline, enabling basic integration in existing infrastructures. The integrated Triple DES authentication provides an efficient counteractant against fake tickets (ticket cloning).

Key applications for MIFARE Ultralight C are Public Transportation, Event Ticketing, Loyalty and NFC Forum Tag Type 2.


The MIFARE DESFire is additional NXP microprocessor system, modelled on a comparable core as the MIFARE ProX/SmartMX, with more hardware and software security features than the regular MIFARE Classic chips. It is sold already programmed with a common purpose software (the DESFire operating system) that offers a classic directory structure with files, similar to what is typically found on smart cards. DESFire cards are sold on four styles.

One with Triple-DES only and 4Kbyte of storage and three with AES using storage ability of 2, 4 and 8 KB (see DESFire EV1). The AES variants also have extra security features, i.e. CMAC. It is utilizing a standards compliant (ISO/IEC 14443-4) protocol. The card is based on a 8051 processor with Triple DES and AES crypto accelerator, making decidedly accelerated transactions attainable.

The maximal read/write range between card and reader is 10 cm (4 inches), but exact distance depends on the field power induced by the reader and its antenna size.


(previously called DESFire8)

New evolution of DESFire card, broadly backwards compatible. Available with 2KB, 4 KB and 8KB NV-Memory.

DESFire EV1 was publicly announced in November 2006.


MIFARE Plus is a substitute card for the MIFARE Classic. It provides an accessible upgrade of current infrastructures toward high security. The applicative data management is equivalent to the MIFARE Classic, however the security management requires the modification of the installed reader base. It differs from DESFire EV1 in not being as adaptable as the latter.

Source by Jorgen Tallisford

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