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).