Scattershot ID techniques in passports are not catching fraudsters

Scattershot ID techniques in passports are not catching fraudsters

A new Secure Identity Alliance report on passport fraud calls out the fragility of travel documents, even biometric passports, as a method of reliably identifying people.

It has become conventional wisdom in some circles that biometrics-protected, chip-embedded documents will largely end centuries of cat-and-mouse security games between nations and criminals.

In its report, the alliance disagrees. “Passport Fraud Trends and Ways to Combat Them” emphatically makes the point that all efforts to accurately and efficiently identify cross-border travelers are only as good as the training and provisioning of officers in the field.

Twenty-one percent of fraudulent passports were compromised by altered (sometimes morphed) images uploaded to identification verification tools online, according to the industry alliance.

Reasons why digital efforts can prove counterproductive are many.

While some countries invest too little in securing documents, others over-load passports with techniques and tools, according to the report. Complicated does not always equate to thorough security steps.

At the same time, it is not uncommon for border officials to be in the dark about new techniques and procedures.

And if sub-par chips or biometric algorithms serve up too many false positives, those same workers ignore ID alerts altogether.

The report goes beyond block-and-tackle matters of identification to specifically address facial morphing, which the alliance says “represents a very serious threat.”

Morphing is the basis of deepfakes, after all. The features of two people who look similar are digitally averaged.

The splashiest deepfakes convincingly transfer the digital features of one person onto another’s digital image. Morphing, on the other hand, creates one image that can pass for the two subjects — in the judgment of AI or human.

Countering this theft is difficult, according to the alliance, which recommends nations adopt three interlinked steps.

Do not accept printed or uploaded. Use only images captured live, either on site or via accredited photo studios or booths.

Then upgrade to the strongest security measures available to protect the photos in travel documents. And, similarly, put the best biometric recognition products at identification checkpoints.

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