Fail to build it... and they will come (and rip us off)

The Evening Standard reports that PC World was asked to withdraw a £750 printer after the Met police “revealed it could produce replicas of the proposed new ID card and EU driving licenses.” It’s certainly good to see that the police are stamping down on organised criminals and have closed this particular avenue for identity-related fraud – otherwise, we’d all be vulnerable to crime arising from the absence of a proper authentication infrastructure.

This is one of my greatest concerns about the current state of authentication in the UK – we currently rely on passports, driving licenses and utility bills, all of which can be easily forged. Without any proper way to verify the authenticity of those documents, and to bind them to the holder, we have to take a risk judgement on whether they are legitimate or not. The government has pitched biometric ID cards and photo driving licenses as a ‘gold standard’ for ID that will be infallible, but seems to have forgotten that the system is only as good as the verification mechanism, and in the absence of pervasive biometric readers, these cards might just as well be the printed plastic blanks that will be spewing from the £750 printers that used to be on sale at PC World. At least it was harder to forge a passport (you can’t buy blank ones at the local stationers).

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I have news for the Met. Firstly they are almost certainly acting beyond their powers in forcing PC World to withdraw a computer printer. If I ran PC World I would want a court order before I stopped selling an item. There are many printers and copiers legally on sale which potentially could be used to assist in the creation of forgeries. Just because the Met does not like them does not mean they cannot be sold. Secondly, it doesn't matter. Forgeries of ID cards (expect them within days of general public issue) will not be produced in England but in Rotterdam, Antwerp, Bucarest, or Panama City. The first beneficiaries will probably be those currently camped around Calais trying to conceal themselves under a truck to get to England. In future they will just buy a forged card and get on the Eurostar. There is no such thing as unforgeable ID - and there is no such thing as a corruption proof agency running an ID service.
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What a great story this is and as you say it just shows the gaping holes in our security systems. It was great to find out which printer was withdrawn from sale at PC world. The question is what would the authorities have done if PC world had refused to take it off the shelves. My own view is that the Governent has totally shot itself in the foot with the proposed ID card scheme, let's face it are you going to trust the Government with your most personal private data after all the leaks they've had?
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