Alliance Activities : Publications : Smart Cards Biometrics Report

Smart Cards and Biometrics Report

Publication Date: May 2002
Pages: 30

Executive Summary

Why Are Secure Identification Systems Needed?

Both government and commercial organizations are implementing more secure personal identification (ID) systems to improve confidence in verifying the identity of individuals seeking access to physical or virtual locations. A secure personal ID system is designed to solve the fundamental problem of verifying individuals are who they claim to be. This verification is achieved using a recognized ID credential issued from a secure and effective identity confirmation process. A secure personal ID system design will include a complex set of decisions to select and put in place the appropriate policies and procedures, architecture, technology and staff to deliver the desired level of security. A secure ID system can provide individuals with trusted credentials for a wide range of applications – from enabling access to facilities or secure networks, to proving an individual’s rights to services, to conducting online transactions.

Biometric and Smart Card Technologies Provide Highest Security

Biometric technologies are defined as automated methods of identifying or authenticating the identity of a living person based on unique physiological or behavioral characteristics. Biometric technologies, when used with a well-designed ID system, can provide the means to ensure that an individual presenting a secure ID credential has the absolute right to use that credential. Smart cards have the unique ability to store large amounts of biometric and other data, carry out their own on-card functions, and interact intelligently with a smart card reader. Secure ID systems that require the highest degree of security and privacy are increasingly implementing both smart card and biometric technology.

Combining Biometrics and Smart Cards Delivers Economic and Security Advantages

In an ID system that combines smart card and biometric technologies to verify the identity of individuals, a “live” biometric image (e.g., scan of a fingerprint or hand geometry) is captured at the point of interaction and compared to a stored biometric image that was captured when the individual enrolled in the ID system. Smart cards provide the secure, convenient and cost-effective ID technology that stores the enrolled biometric template and compares it to the “live” biometric template. A secure ID system using smart card and biometric technology provides:

  • Enhanced privacy, securing information on the card, allowing the individual to control access to that information and removing the need for central database access during identity verification.
  • Improved security, protecting information and processes within the ID system and actively authenticating the trust level of the environment before releasing information.
  • Improved ID system performance and availability through local information processing and contactless ID card and reader implementations.
  • Improved system return on investment through the flexibility and upgradability that smart cards provide, allowing support of different authentication methods and multiple, evolving applications.

About This Report

This report was developed by the Smart Card Alliance Secure Personal Identification Task Force to discuss the combination of smart card and biometric technology in secure ID systems. The report provides a basic tutorial of the components that are included in a secure identification system that uses biometric and smart card technology. It defines the terminology used to describe a biometric ID system and discusses the key questions that should be considered when designing the architecture of a secure ID system that incorporates both smart cards and biometrics. The report concludes with a discussion of how the combination of smart card and biometric technology enhances the security, privacy, performance and cost-effectiveness of a secure ID system, while enhancing trust and convenience for individuals.

The report provides answers to questions commonly asked about secure ID system implementations, including:

  • What is a secure ID system?
  • What are biometrics and how do they work?
  • What makes an ID system secure?
  • What are the policy considerations for a secure ID system?
  • How can individual privacy be protected in a secure ID system?
  • How can the combination of biometric and smart card technologies provide the highest security, while also protecting privacy?

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