Smart Card Alliance Supports Higher Security Levels for Electronic Passport
Association of Corporate Travel Executives Global Conference, Vancouver, BC, May 5, 2005–Smart Card Alliance Executive Director Randy Vanderhoof, speaking to a gathering of corporate travel executives, voiced the smart card industry’s support of the U.S. State Department’s recent statements to begin strongly considering additional security measures including Basic Access Control (BAC) and shielding to protect personal data in passports equipped with contactless smart card technology. This approach will address concerns raised about the potential for skimming of personal data and remote eavesdropping on passport communications during usage.
“Officials from the State Department have indicated that they are now strongly considering the use of BAC in the U.S. electronic passport, a security feature supported by contactless chip technology. We think that is the right approach,” said Vanderhoof. “A number of organizations, in particular those representing the travel industry, have expressed concern that an electronic passport without access controls or encryption could potentially be used as a way to identify Americans traveling abroad. The use of BAC and encryption, coupled with protective shielding in the passport cover to prevent activation of an unopened passport by a high-power radio frequency reader, overcomes this concern while maintaining all of the added security features that the new passport is intended to have.”
With BAC, an optional security measure defined in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) specification, the communication of personal data by the contactless smart chip requires an extra step before that data is released. It requires keys derived from information on the printed data page to be processed within the secure contactless smart chip before the release of the passport data to any reader.
“The State Department has stayed true to its word that it would not make a final decision on the new passport technology until it was satisfied that no individuals would be placed at risk.” added Vanderhoof. “This is an evolutionary process to test, evaluate and consider all options for the appropriate implementation of secure technology complying with ICAO specifications.”
The move to electronic passports is a result of the realization that today’s paper-based passports can be too easily altered or falsified. Over 300,000 U.S. passports have been reported lost or stolen as of April 2002. Executive Travel Associates, another travel industry organization, cites a June 2004 report that there are more than 10 million missing passports, many of them from European countries. By putting an electronic copy of passport information in a secure smart chip and including a biometric identifier, the information on the printed document can be verified quickly and provide higher assurance that the document is not a fake. The information on the chip is also digitally signed so it cannot be altered. When passport officials compare the printed passport, the information on the chip and the person in front of them, they can be sure of the authenticity of the document and its bearer.
Smart card technology, both in contactless or contact forms, is widely recognized as having the strongest security features of any identity token technology and is the best choice for improving the security of travel documents. Contactless smart chip technology was chosen by ICAO for its reliability, convenience, security and its unique ability to be incorporated into existing travel documents manufactured worldwide. It is also a proven technology with more than 10 years of usage globally in a variety of demanding financial and identity applications.
About the Smart Card Alliance
The Smart Card Alliance is a not-for-profit, multi-industry association working to accelerate the acceptance of smart card technology. Through specific projects such as education programs, market research, advocacy, industry relations and open forums, the Alliance keeps its members connected to industry leaders and innovative thought. The Alliance is the single industry voice for smart cards, leading industry discussion on the impact and value of smart cards in the U.S. For more information please visit http://www.securetechalliance.org.