The majority of today’s card issuance and licensing systems rely on two-dimensional identity validation — comparing the person presenting credentials with identifying data displayed on a card. Over time, cards and licenses have evolved from a simple photo ID to include sophisticated elements that enable more trustworthy visual authentication while acting as effective deterrents to tampering and forgery. These elements include higher-resolution images, holographic card over-laminates, and the laser engraving of permanent and unalterable personalization attributes into cards, which makes forgery and alteration virtually impossible.
Even with the most advanced techniques, there is always someone intent on circumventing credential requirements. Would-be counterfeiters take advantage of advanced tools and materials, which fuels an ongoing need for training and diligence on the part of security staff and law enforcement personnel to keep ahead of attempted fraud.
Digital components, such as smart card chips or magnetic stripes, add a third security dimension to ID card and license issuance systems. In addition, expanded data storage on the card can enable the inclusion of biometric and other information to enhance the validation process. It is generally accepted that multiple factors of authentication consisting of something you have (e.g., a card), something you know (e.g., a password), and something you are (e.g., a biometric) increases the probability that the person presenting his card at a reader is the same person that was initially issued the card. Smart cards enable multi-factor authentication, and leverage cryptography and keys to ensure that the user possesses the correct keys at that specific moment.
Card and License Issuance and Management
While multiple layers of visual and digital security are critical to protect the integrity of each credential and each cardholder, the integrity of the overall licensing system requires that a layered security approach also be applied to the process of issuing valid cards. The same principles can be applied to a corporate card issuance system.
The first security layer is to limit unauthorized operator access to physical components. Mechanical locks should restrict access to card printers, including card input and output hoppers and rejected cards. Physical locks should be placed on all access points to protect ribbon and film consumables.
Electronic security is a critical second layer. Ideally, operator access to each printer is controlled via personal identification numbers (PINs). Print job data packets should meet or exceed advanced encryption standards to ensure system privacy, integrity and authentication to the final issuance endpoint.
An often-overlooked third layer is to ensure automatic elimination of personal data on used print ribbon panels. Some card printers also increase security by including integrated sensors that only permit the use of custom print ribbons and holographic card overlaminates in authorized printers.
Increasing Utility with Smart Card Technology
Enhanced security is a strong standalone argument for governments and Federal agencies — and high-security private-sector deployments — to use technology cards for license and card issuance. In addition, the integration of enhanced digital capabilities into card issuance and licensing systems creates new opportunities, such as:
- Cross-application usage within territory. A single card can be issued that provides access to multiple services and facilities within a licensing zone, reducing the need for multiple cards and authentication processes.
- Borderless credentials. Government entities can work together to create credentials that work within city, state, provincial and even international borders; thus simplifying the ID verification processes for travelers.
- Greater flexibility in issuance alternatives. The use of smart card technology and the latest printing solutions gives card issuance systems greater flexibility to issue cards or licenses from a centralized processing facility or from multiple distributed facilities throughout a region or country.
- Expedited credential status updates. Systems using smart card technology can manage real-time privilege approval, changes or cancellation. This is a critical advantage for license systems that store detailed cardholder records — from important medical data, to records of past legal violations.
- Enhanced responsiveness in emergencies and crises. Victims and emergency response personnel moving into and out of crisis zones may be identified, and their ID cards validated using hand-held readers, with communications technology enabling real-time reporting to crisis management teams. This can also be a great help in an emergency mustering situation.