Are Physical Security Features Still Needed on Identity Documents?

Vincent Gourmelen's picture

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 to a passport or an Identity card.

Counterfeited IDs Are a Concern

Even the most secure electronic ID documents are 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 suitable electronic readers 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 datapage 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.  Making a security feature too complex – as is the case with the latest generation of holograms – can make it too difficult to verify in the field. Security features need to be easily recognizable, even to the untrained eye.
     
  • 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 most likely be to the cardholder’s image, including other physical security elements on a secondary portrait that can be easily verified will make it easier for border agents to validate someone’s identity.

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

  1. Negative laser personalization, using classic, existing equipment, both desktop and industrial
  2. Sealable window that protects against substitution
  3. Bi-color metallic effect
  4. Customizable shape and image, personalized to the issuing country and/or to the cardholder

In a single strong element, Mirage can effectively:

  • Protect the cardholder’s identity from counterfeiters. The combination of Mirage™ with 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 impossible to reproduce.
     
  • Protect the cardholder’s personalized data.  Mirage™ is laser personalized with the cardholder’s secondary portrait, creating a bi-color metallic effect and a watermark element. The watermark appearance/disappearance creates a truly unique visual effect that is impossible to replicate identically
     
  • 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.

HID Global is continually innovating to create new, high-security features that safeguard a citizen’s identity. To learn more about Mirage and our other security features for both passport datapages and e-ID cards, click here.