25/08/2010

By Keith Chapman - Solution Manager, HID Global

With the summer schedule of events in full swing, media attention has once again turned to the issue of fake identity cards. In the past, ticket-driven events such as festivals have been counterfeiter hotspots for identity fraud, with successful fraudsters seeking increasingly sophisticated ways to circumvent the ticketing system and cash in on supplying fake ID.

As digital ID card printing technology becomes more advanced, and more affordable, it is becoming increasingly attractive not only to legitimate users, but also to the criminal fraternity. One of the highest-profile challenges facing the access control industry today is the threat of their printers being obtained and abused by identity fraudsters. And the market for false identities does not stop at the ticket gates. Driven by organised crime from terrorism, drug trafficking and immigration to fraud and economic crime, criminals are going to ever-greater lengths to obtain cover that counterfeit identity cards provide for their illegal activities.

With full-colour plastic card printers freely available since the early 1990s, criminals have had more than enough time to perfect their repertoire of counterfeiting skills. With just a click of the mouse, anyone with access to the internet can download detailed instructions on how to fake almost any type of ID card and where to buy the equipment to do it themselves. This has serious implications for any organisation that uses ID cards as the backbone of its physical and logical access control system. Disturbingly, reproducing a high-quality fake PVC corporate ID card could set the determined counterfeiter back as little as £200, giving them easy access to office buildings and IT systems.

Choosing the right card, printer and issuance process is a crucial first step, but many companies are choosing to incorporate additional anti-counterfeit features into their ID cards. These include sophisticated visible deterrents designed to discourage replication such as holographic materials, ultra violet inks, 3D imaging effects and micro text that can be embedded into cards during the manufacturing process. Covert and forensic features are invisible to the human eye and place complex obstacles in the path of potential counterfeiters; these include features like nano text. If a fraudulent card is created, verification of these missing microscopic elements can lead to the perpetrator of the fraud attempt.

Until recently, law enforcement agencies have been hampered in the fight against ID card fraud by the lack of regulation of ID card printers. Two years ago, the Metropolitan Police moved to tighten the noose on counterfeiters through a collaborative initiative between the force and key industry players. Project Genisius was set up by officers from Operation Maxim, the Met’s Organised Immigration Crime Unit, to encourage companies selling printers, stamps and other specialist ID equipment to sign up to a voluntary code of conduct for the industry.

Police sources believe that these best-practice guidelines have been very effective in raising awareness of the abuse of ID card printers by counterfeiters. In addition, they estimate that the intelligence gathered since the start of the operation has led to the disruption of 14 criminal networks, the exposure of over 40,000 false identities and the seizure during raids of hundreds of ID card printers used for criminal purposes. These figures are probably just an indication of the true extent of the problem.

The fight against ID card fraud can only be won if simultaneously tackled from both sides of the equation: manufacturers and suppliers of ID card printers make it more difficult for criminals to obtain their equipment by engaging with best-practice initiatives such as Project Genisius; at the same time, they need to help educate the companies that use their ID card solutions on the risks of fraud and the enhanced security features their printers include that they can use to protect themselves.

HID Global is the trusted source for secure identity solutions for millions of customers around the world. Recognised for robust quality, innovative designs and industry leadership, HID Global is the supplier of choice for OEMs, system integrators, and application developers serving a variety of markets, including physical and logical access control, card personalization, eGovernment, cashless payment and industry and logistics www.hidglobal.com.