Technology key to secure document future, says UK Home Office

Physical security is just as important as digital security in documents such as passports, says UK Home Office

Physical security is just as important as digital security in documents such as passports, according to Frank Smith, strategy co-ordinator for the Home Office biometric programme.

“We cannot say microchips have made physical security unimportant because they complement each other and we need both,” he told the opening session of the SDW 2014 conference in London.

He said technology is key to increasing the use of existing secure documents and increasing the efficiency of business processes connected to the use of those documents.

At the bare minimum, microchips in passports have given authorities the means of ensuring that the document is from a trusted source and data has not been altered using a public-key infrastructure.

But investigations are underway, said Smith, to enable European Union member states, for example, to exchange fingerprint information under strict privacy controls.

National authorities are also investigating ways to add information to microchips in passports such as electronic visas that can be written to secure locations on the chip and read at national borders.

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The technology used to communicate with the chips is also being evolved and improved to ensure greater security than the access controls that have been used in the past.

“Technology can also introduce step changes, such as the introduction of electronic gates to enable automated access to holders of EU passports,” said Smith.

Since the introduction of this facility in UK airports, this option has become increasingly popular, with the UK recently recording its 30 millionth passenger admitted to the UK in this way.

“There has been a 30% increase in the number of passengers using e-gates in the past year, and Gatwick has recently installed a bank of 12 e-gates in its South Terminal,” said Smith.

Mobile technology is continually improving, he said, which means there will soon be no reason for not equipping border control staff with mobile devices at the front line.

“This innovation alone will save a great deal of time and effort by enabling border staff to handle inquiries quickly at the point of entry,” said Smith.

Technological developments, he said, supported by co-operation, partnerships and standards, will enable sustained innovation in secure document applications.

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