How secure is your ID?
Editor's Note: This is the second of several reports that H1 columnist Jeff Rubin will be filing after returning from a recent week-long emergency preparedness media tour in Switzerland.
What do you rely on every day, and particularly when you travel? (Hint: It’s smaller than a breadbox.) Simple answer: your ID. More complex, accurate answer: everyone’s IDs, and the ability of security personnel to verify them.
Being able to provide reliable evidence that we are who we say we are is a foundation of both individual liberty and the ability to protect it. It is also a necessary capability of criminals and terrorists, the difference being that for those more nefarious groups, who they say they are is likely not who they really are. Although any issuer of an ID card who uses it as verification and access control must deal with potential misuse, the overwhelming focus is on government-issued identification.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s REAL ID initiative addresses the most challenging piece of this puzzle: state drivers licenses and ID cards. REAL ID was initially authorized with a deadline of May 2008, but all states have been granted an extension to May 2011 to meet the program’s standards.
So far the most promising means of creating secure ID comes from the Switzerland-based OVD Kinegram AG. As company spokesman John Peters points out, document security addresses four principle threats: counterfeiting, photograph/signature substitution, alteration of printed data, and manipulation of an included machine-readable data carrier (for example, U.S. passports). In addition to addressing these threats, reliable ID must meet these needs for security personnel who are tasked with verification: ease of communication of verification attributes (“look for this”), ease of actual verification (so security personnel can assess authenticity in 8-10 seconds, as opposed to 1-2 minutes, in a long line of travelers or facility entrants) and difficulty for unauthorized users to copy, imitate or alter.
The eponymous Kinegram meets those needs, providing features that can be verified in a matter of seconds with little training, and that have yet to be successfully duplicated or counterfeited.
A Kinegram bears superficial resemblance to a hologram, but as the name suggests, it incorporates movement, with design components appearing to change location, shape, contrast or color; transposing features with other components; and/or incorporating micro- or nano-scale text. The high-security manufacturing process relies on a combination of the optical technology to generate the image, materials science to produce a tamper-resistant foil capable of accepting and retaining the image, and application technology to combine the two.
Kinegram technology is reserved for high-security, government-issued documents. Other document-security technologies are available from the manufacturer, but they do not incorporate the same level of security and are produced at other locations.
Nearly 90 countries use Kinegram technology in their security and ID documents and/or national currency. If you handle Euro currency, next time take a look at the Kinegram stripe running vertically on the right-hand side. (You can see a visual demonstration of the security features at the European Central Bank Web site, although the Kinegram feature is listed as a hologram).
If you’re in North America and want some examples closer to home, consider drivers licenses from Massachusetts and North Carolina; Canadian visa and internal ID cards; and U.S. passport, Trusted Traveler and border crossing cards, as well as some federal ID. Admission and ID cards for the 2009 presidential inauguration bore Kinegrams as well. Rather than licensing their technology, OVD Kinegram produces and securely ships foils for their governmental end-users.
Are truly secure documents enough in themselves to protect us from crime and terrorism? Of course not, no more than a really good lock is enough in itself to protect a home from burglary. As one area of border, facility or currency security is improved, those who are trying to beat the system can look elsewhere. (For example, if you can’t make a credible counterfeit passport, you can still obtain a real one illegally). If not sufficient, however, document security is a necessary attribute, and one that’s still lacking in many applications.
OVD Kinegram has been around for 25 years (they are now part of Germany’s KURZ Group), and have been evolving their technology and products in what is never a static competition against those who try to falsify documents. The technology is not only reliable; it’s pretty cool, too. With many US states still struggling to produce secure IDs, this is one potential solution.