Finger On The Pulse Of Identity
by Carl Norell - Gemplus - Monday, 26 September 2005.
Furthermore, storing the template in the smart card allows strong authentication in off-line mode. This reduces the needs of a permanent connection to a centralised repository of templates.

Taking the privacy discussion a step further, matching algorithms can be implemented on the smart card. This means that instead of reading the template off the card, the biometric is read and given to the card to do the matching in a process known as on-card matching. This technique ensures there has been no tampering with the matching process and also means that the enrolled biometric data never leaves the card. The portability of the biometric enables the card owner to have control of his or her template, while also supporting offline processing.

National ID – a big market

With many governments now considering – or upgrading – their identity cards, biometrics and smart cards are coming of age in a variety of countries. Malaysia, Brunei, Oman and the United Arab Emirates are just a selection of countries that have recently adopted national ID smart cards using fingerprint technology.

In the Sultanate of Oman, a smart card-based citizen ID programme has been deployed using the “ResIDent” smart ID card system from Gemplus, and fingerprint technology by biometrics vendor Sagem. The new system provides advantages to government and citizens alike. The government is able to enhance its identification processes, improve its infrastructure, modernise its national registry system, increase homeland security and provide better quality services to citizens. Cardholders, meanwhile, can identify themselves electronically. And, as time progresses, these cards will be used for a host of government applications, including driving licences, passports, work permits, PKI authentication and digital signatures, domestic e-purse, healthcare cards and electronic voting. Approximately 1.5 million smart cards will be issued to Oman’s citizens and expatriates above the age of 15 between 2004 and 2007.

In neighbouring United Arab Emirates, a nationwide ID programme using Java Card-based technology from Gemplus and Sagem’s AFIS technology has been launched. The scheme, which goes live this year, will see over 2 million cards rolled out for personal identification purposes. Using the power of multi-application smart cards backed up by biometrics, this card will also eventually combine identification with driving licence, border control and emergency medical data.

Public opinion shift

Even in the UK, where public opinion has typically seen identity cards as an infringement of civil liberties, there now seems to be something of a sea change. In April 2004, a Mori poll of 1,000 people indicated that 80% backed a national ID card scheme. With public opinion growing, the UK government is now drawing up plans for a compulsory ID card combining biometrics with a smart card in an effort to tackle the identity fraud which costs the country UK£1.3bn each year. Trials involving 10,000 volunteers have been launched from the passport office in London and three other centres around Britain. The government is expected to publish draft legislation and a bill paving the way for the scheme before the next general election.

With the number of biometric and smart card schemes for national ID increasing, media and analysts are beginning to realise that biometric technology is a good tool in the fight for security and authentication. However, with the combination of biometrics and smart cards, organisations have access to a great tool that enables even higher levels of security while promoting privacy, portability and user convenience.

Gemplus are exhibiting at Infosecurity Europe 2006. Held on the 25th – 27th April 2006 in the Grand Hall, Olympia, this is a must attend event for all IT professionals involved in Information Security.


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