|YOUR ID PLEASE, CITIZEN|
Standard printing technology, which lays down ink on the card material, easily succumbs to skilled forgers. One step up is laser engraving: Machines permanently etch a photo into the card material, usually a polymer such as polycarbonate. It's virtually impossible to erase or alter a laser-engraved image without leaving telltale marks. But a trained person is still needed to examine the card for sophisticated tampering. Another step up: Integrate a radio frequency identification (RFID) device, which would automate the authentication process. An RFID chip and antenna would be placed beneath the photo. If the image is altered, the chip and antenna are disturbed, and a portable reader will register a problem.
4. Smart card technology
With the addition of an integrated circuit microprocessor, the card can perform data manipulation and run cryptographic algorithms. The processor makes it possible to limit the amount of data any one official can access. For example, an ER doctor could view medical information and enter data about treatment (if the card's data storage device is read-write capable), but could not see security-related data (such as a traveler's flight history, or a non-citizen's visa status) that an airport or INS official might require. But how secure are smart cards? Detailed instructional hacking sites can be found on the Web, many focusing on European cards. And the more data on a card, the more valuable the card becomes to an identity thief.
5. Internal Memory Strip
Currently manufactured only by UltraCard of Los Gatos, California, this rewritable internal strip can store 20MB of data, roughly the capacity of 14 floppy disks—essentially giving the card a (tiny) hard drive. The capacity may soon grow by a factor of 10, according to the manufacturer. A high-capacity device could store rich biometric data such as several fingerprints, iris scans, face scans, heartbeat characteristics, or DNA sequences. In a relatively simple application, law enforcement officials access the card data using a portable reader and match it to the biometrics of the person presenting the card. Or an entry control system might be developed that automatically matches, for example, the iris scan on the card with the cardholder's iris.
6. 2-D Bar Code
This low-tech info coding could be used by officials who don't have more sophisticated optical reading devices. A big step up from the simple 20-byte-capacity bar code you see on cereal boxes, the 2-D bar code stores information in vertical and horizontal lines—up to 2KB or more of data, potentially including text, a photo, and a limited amount of biometrics. These bar codes are already used on driver's licenses in several states, generally to code the same information that's on the face of the card. The technology is virtually tamperproof. The main problem: relatively small capacity per inch of card real estate. Datastrip Inc. of Exton, Pennsylvania, says it can cram 2.8KB of data into a space the size of a conventional thin magnetic strip. The company also sells a portable reader with an integrated fingerprint identifier.
WHOSE DATABASE, ANYWAY?
The biggest challenge for a national ID system is ensuring the accuracy of the information used to build a database of names, biometrics, and the like. There are more than 200 million state driver's licenses in the country, representing the largest collection of data of its kind. The most pressing question: How accurate are these databases? How easy is it to obtain a license fraudulently? As the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators points out, al Qaeda terrorists used licenses to build U.S. identities. In January the AAMVA proposed beefing up the system by establishing uniform standards for licenses, coordinating data between states, and improving security and biometrics. A national ID initiative could be a springboard for this effort.
Copyright Family Guardian Fellowship
|Last revision: April 28, 2006 08:42 PM|
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