Expert Speak

Are Physical Security Features Still Needed on Identity Documents?

Written by Vincent Gourmelen, ID Card Solutions Product Manager, Citizen Identity Solutions, HID

At a time of strong data encryption, on-chip biometry checks, digital signatures or national public key directories (N-PKD), one can question the necessity of adding advanced physical security features on a passport or an Identity card. Reports show that even the most secure physical ID documents can still be subject to counterfeiting, particularly aspects of the material document, such as the cardholder’s image or other personalized information.   The reason for this is simple: not all law enforcement agencies and private sector companies are equipped with proper electronic devices and software to validate highly secure ID documents, such as national IDs.

The main challenges when checking a document without any device is the ability to do it:

  • Quickly. Border control officers have between 7 and 12 seconds to raise doubts on the document’s authenticity.
  • Effectively.  A passport data page usually bears more than 20 security features, thus checking all of them is practically impossible. Selecting only a few to look at leaves the viability of that document still in question.
  • Simply.  Even if an on-card security feature is industrially perfect and impossible to reproduce identically, making that security feature too complex – such as is the case with the latest generation of holograms – can make it too difficult to verify in the field.
  • Exhaustively.  One needs to confirm that the document is genuine and has not been modified, particularly when it comes to the main portrait.

Innovative New Security Features Can Effectively Combat Counterfeiting
The need to authenticate a document in a fast and effective manner is paramount.  The easiest and most predominant way to do this is still with the naked eye. However, since a physical document’s attack will be most likely be to the cardholder’s image, including other physical security elements that can be easily verified will make it easier for border agents to authenticate someone’s identity.

Our latest window-based security feature, Mirage, can be easily added to a card to enhance its visual security.  Mirage combines five features in one:

  1. Negative laser engraving
  2. Inlay window protection
  3. Bi-color metallic effect
  4. Customizable design
  5. Window seal

In a single strong element, Mirage can effectively:

  • Protect the cardholder’s identity from counterfeiters. The combination of Mirage with an inlay including a window protects documents against the most common types of attacks: backside grinding, re-laminating, punching and refilling, and so on. Moreover, the very specific visual effects present in Mirage would be almost impossible to reproduce.
  • Protect the cardholder’s personalized data.  Mirage is laser engraved with the cardholder’s secondary portrait with a special ink that generates a bi-colour metallic effect and depending on the angle, a watermark feature. Its unique appearance/disappearance creates a truly unique image that is very difficult to replicate.
  • Provide a very fast, simple and effective way to visually authenticate the document.  A border agent or government representative need only hold the card (front and/or back) against a light to determine if the image has been altered in any way – all in less than 3 seconds.
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Chris Fernando

Chris N. Fernando is an experienced media professional with over two decades of journalistic experience. He is the Editor of Arabian Reseller magazine, the authoritative guide to the regional IT industry. Follow him on Twitter (@chris508) and Instagram (@chris2508).

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