The article is pretty vague on the CA Card, but assuming this comment is correct:


Conditional Access - basically a “dongle” card that responds to a security challenge with an appropriate response. Lots of different systems in place (Satellite and Cable Boxes use modern versions of these), but the basic idea is that it can respond with an appropriate pseudo-random code value, or even a set of carefully output “random” analog voltages (for the really old ones).

In this case, the Factory DOS software, Car’s ECU, and Laptop are all part of an integrated system that will only let the software talk to the car’s ECU IF that CA card is present and provides the correct response. It’s hardware-based copy protection for the very important factory ECU software.

These days CA for industrial software is typically handled with a USB key; look on the side of a CNC mill, Autocad box, or similar engineering system and you may see a variety of colored USB “thumb drives” sticking out. They’re all dongles that enable various bits of software. If your license expires, the software stops working, and after you pay the company will FedEx you a new dongle.