Monday, January 31, 2011

US eyeing a global 'trusted shipper' program

The program would create a list of pre-vetted cargo companies (
The "trusted shipper" program is part of a wider effort to boost the safety of air cargo, whose vulnerability was exposed when militants in Yemen hid two powerful bombs inside printers and shipped them aboard cargo planes to addresses in Chicago late last year.

Access control critical for security

Access control critical for security, and other things (ITWeb S. Africa)
Experts in the field of biometric-based security systems believe that knowing the movements of people within the company or business is, especially from a security perspective, of paramount importance to decision makers.
Understanding how employees act within and move about an organizations has value beyond the security function.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Nigeria having a rough go at biometric voter system

Nigerian Voter Registration Off to Bumpy Start (
The above link leads to a page at that aggregates eighteen articles chronicling the problems Nigeria is having in implementing a fingerprint based voter ID system.

Headlines include:
Election Commission Chief in Eye of Storm (Jan. 23)
Voter Registration Hitches Are National Embarrassment (Jan. 24)
Fake DDC Machines Slow Voter Registration Exercise in Edo (Jan. 21)
Voter Registration - False Start? (Jan. 20)

To this list may be added an article from yesterday:
Voter Registration - DDC Machines Too Fake And Cheap

Biometric ID management systems can help liberate the electoral process from corruption. If, however, the implementation process itself is plagued with corruption many of the benefits of the implementation will be sacrificed and the costs will inevitably go up.

See also:
Big-Time fraud in NYC time-and-attendance initiative

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Taiwan to begin automated border control system trial

Airports to follow (
Taiwan will be launching a trial of an automated border control system at offshore Kinmen island after the Chinese New Year holidays in order to simplify and speed up border controls, local officials announced yesterday.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and the National Immigration Agency (NIA) yesterday jointly announced that a total of seven sets of the newly-introduced system will be first tested at the Shuitou Port (水頭港) in Kinmen, one of the entry-points for passengers making use of the Mini Three links.
With trade volume between Fujian and Taiwan surging by 48.7% in 2010, the ROI on a system like this could be significant. (

Calls for Zimbabwe to adopt Biometric voters’ registration

Political commentators and Civil Society Organizations back MDC-T’s call for Zimbabwe to adopt a new voters’ roll for forthcoming elections (The Zimbabwean via SW Radio Africa)
Tobaiwa Mudede is the Registrar-General in the inclusive government and has been in that position since the early 1980’s. He has been criticized by international human rights organizations for falsifying and manipulating the voters roll to ensure Robert Mugabe’s ‘electoral victories’ against the MDC.

It’s been reported that a South African based company has provided quotation of $20 million for biometric voter registration for the whole of Zimbabwe.

The latest MDC demands come in the wake of revelations by independent election watchdog, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, that the voters’ roll is full of dead people and includes names of children, some as young as four years.
In developing countries, biometric identity management systems are frequently seen as a means to reign in corrupt and abusive governments.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

TechConnectWV announces commercialization awards program

Encourages biometric and identity management job creation in WV (
“However, there is little native biometric manufacturing activity and even less identity related intellectual property in the state,” she said. “TechConnectWV’s commercialization awards program will attempt to identify and fund promising ideas that can stimulate industry development and job growth in West Virginia.”
TechConnectWV leaders expect to publish and disseminate the rules of submission for the commercialization awards by the end of January. The TechConnectWV program is funded by grants from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.

Access control - technology, people on the move

Access control and regulation of resources are cornerstones of modern commercial security strategies (
Part of the reason for this is because of the practical value that biometric technology offers and the strength it has in comparison with alternatives such as cards, PINs and/or passwords, says Coetzee.

“The monitoring of people's movements and their access to areas has become increasingly sophisticated in the past few years through the use of fingerprint biometric identification systems. Unfortunately, the traditional alternatives are just not secure enough methods of access control as they can be lost, stolen or forgotten. With a competent, robust biometric system based on fingerprints, you simply can't cheat the system.”
They're better solutions at lower cost.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Casino face scanners make a lot of sense

Steven Gallagher: The Daily Observer (Pembroke, Ontario)
At first glance, it seems like a less-than-appealing idea: Walk into a government-run facility and have your face digitally scanned by a camera.

It smacks of "Big Brother is watching you."

However, a plan by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. to install facial recognition scanners at the province's 27 gaming facilities, including the two casinos in Niagara Falls and the slots at the Fort Erie Race Track, makes sense.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Switzerland New biometric residence permits ready

Switzerland: New biometric residence permits ready January 24 (
Switzerland Monday 24 January begins issuing biometric residence permits to foreigners who are from outside the European Union or Efta (European Free Trade Association). Note for holders of residence permits: existing permits remain valid until the expiry date listed on them.

From the Swiss Federal Office for Migration:
Link to brochure pdf
It contains two digital fingerprints and a facial image. The data are stored for five years and may only be used for issuing a new identity document. The biometric identity document for foreign nationals fulfils strict international requirements. The data are protected by a secure access control and an electronic key. The fingerprints are especially protected. The chip does not allow a person to be located or monitored.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Air Travel: Biometric information to focus scrutiny on a small number of people

Technology will eliminate intrusive airport security searches, says IATA boss (Prince Edward Island Guardian)
Airline passengers are a couple of years away from passing through security without intrusive scans and searches that cause delays and take the joy out of flying, the head of the International Air Transport Association said Thursday.

IATA chief executive Giovanni Bisignani, a former head of Italy’s Alitalia airline, said that his vision is for “hassle-free tunnels of technology” that all passengers would pass through.

Finger prints and other biometric information from the travellers, combined with intelligence from government and airline sources, would be used to focus scrutiny on a small number of people considered to be a risk.

findBIOMETRICS Year in Review 2010

findBIOMETRICS Publishes Biometric Industry Year in Review with Interviews from 63 International Experts on 2010 Performance and 2011 Potential (

Peter O'Neill does great work at findBIOMETRICS.
The report contains answers to the most pressing questions in the biometrics industry from the people closest to the action.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Gloucestershire nursery leader shows how it's done

Vikkie's finger is on the security pulse (
The managing director of Mary P's Nursery in Ashchurch has installed a fingerprint recognition system at its entrance.

It is a move aimed at making sure members of the public using the railway station next door can't wander in to the nursery.

Vikkie said that in the past she had found that some commuters had entered her premises to use the toilets.
This short-but-sweet article has it all: increased safety at lower cost delivering additional value to customers.

Around there, that's spelled R-O-I.

UK: Destruction of ID card data to cost £400,000

Last May the ill-fated project was shelved (
The destruction of the National Identity Register (NIR) and the personal data held on the controversial ID card system will cost about £400,000.
Previous post on the topic here.

Could Khalid Shaikh Mohammed's arm veins implicate him in the murder of Daniel Pearl?

Qaeda Killer’s Veins Implicate Him In Journo’s Murder (
“By extracting the information of the vascular structure of a hand or finger and converting it into a mathematical quantity,” according to Nomani’s report, “this technology creates a template for each structure and then compares the template of a known individual to a suspect.” After sending the data to KSM’s CIA captors, Dick heard back: “The photo you sent me and the hand of our friend inside the cage seem identical to me.”
Any durable fact regarding an individual's body can be used as a biometric identifier, provided that fact can be measured in sufficient detail.

What determines which body facts are used as biometric identifiers are used in large scale deployments is a combination of convenience (elbows are out), variance across the population (the more the better), variance over time in the same individual (the less the better).

After that, it's ROI (return on investment). Now, there probably won't be significant ROI for developing automated arm vein matching algorithms for large scale identity management deployments in the foreseeable future, but the challenge isn't so much technical as it is economic. If the identification transaction is "worth it" and you have the two data points (unknown arm vein and known arm vein) and the criteria above are met, the answer is out there. The question becomes: What is the answer worth? In this case, the answer: Quite a lot.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Fingerprints Go the Distance

Scanning prints at two meters could mean safer security checks (
Over the years, fingerprinting has evolved from an inky mess to pressing fingers on sensor screens to even a few touch-free systems that work at a short distance. Now a company has developed a prototype of a device that can scan fingerprints from up to two meters away, an approach that could prove especially useful at security checkpoints in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Scotland: Making a meal of biometric 'threat'

I missed this when it was published on January 3.
Making a meal of biometric 'threat' (
The entire article is available at ( -- reg. req.)
Brechin High School is about to celebrate a decade of fingerprint recognition. The kit was introduced to the school’s library in 2001 as part of a new digital administration system. Borrowing by boys increased and lost cards were no longer a time-consuming problem for staff. So in 2007 the fingerprint kit was installed in canteens across the council’s eight secondary schools. Brechin High has had no problems, pupils seem to like it and last week’s publicity prompted only one local opponent into print.
People & ROI.

Earlier post with thoughts on biometrics in Scottish schools here.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Secure Communities helps remove 461 previously convicted aliens from a single county in one year

Thursday marks the first year of Sacramento’s participation in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Secure Communities program (PRWeb via Yahoo)
Of the 461 convicted criminal aliens removed from Sacramento County in the last year, 192 are considered Level 1 offenders, which includes those convicted of serious or violent crimes, such as murder, sexual assault and robbery. Another 126 are Level 2 offenders, which includes individuals with convictions for offenses such as arson, burglary and property crimes. As part of the Secure Communities strategy, ICE is prioritizing its enforcement efforts to ensure that individuals who pose the greatest threat to public safety are removed first.

Regardless of the offenses for which individuals are initially booked, the Secure Communities screening may reveal more serious criminal histories. For example, the fingerprint check of a man who used an alias following his arrest in September by Sacramento police for carrying an open container of alcohol in public, revealed he had multiple prior convictions for drug trafficking as well as a conviction for assault with a firearm and had been previously deported. ICE presented the individual, Jorge Vega-Reyes, to the U.S. Attorney's Office for prosecution for felony re-entry after deportation. Vega was convicted in November and is currently serving a 27-month prison sentence, following which he will be deported to Mexico.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Today is National Amber Alert Awareness Day

Jan. 13 marks National Amber Alert Awareness Day (Lake County News)
California joins other states nationwide in recognizing Jan. 13 as National AMBER Alert Awareness Day, a day to acknowledge the collaborative efforts and successes of the AMBER Alert program to assist in the recovery of abducted children.

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the abduction of Amber Hagerman and the program that was named in her memory.

Massachusetts joins Secure Communities

Gov. Patrick signs on to Biometric data sharing program (
“[The Department of Homeland Security] is implementing Secure Communities with or without the commonwealth,” said Harris. “So we elected to sign the memorandum of agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement so we can participate in how when and where it’s rolled out in the commonwealth.”

The Secure Communities program, created by the Federal Department of Homeland Security, would use biometric data taken from fingerprints of those arrested and cross-reference them with Immigrant and Customs Enforcement databases in an effort to identify and deport illegal immigrants.
Other posts on the topic here.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Canada-US security perimeter a step towards more border efficiency

Canadian and American governments are expected to jointly announce a new deal on border security (
Increased security procedures implemented since 9-11 have served only to thicken the Canada-U.S. border, increase the costs of imports and exports, and generally make life more difficult for anyone whose business relies on the flow of goods or people between our two countries.

In 2010, 75 per cent of all Canadian merchandise exports were expected to go to the United States with more than 70 per cent of these shipments being made by truck crossings. An even larger share of merchandise imports were expected to arrive by truck. Delays at the border due to congestion have been a problem for many years. But despite new trusted-traveller programs, the added security checks after 9-11 have created a de facto barrier to trade.
Democratic governments have certain obligations that they simply cannot shirk. Among these is border security. Given that governments have a duty to secure their mutual borders, it is to be desired that they do this in an efficient and cost effective way while recognizing and promoting the interests of their citizens.

It seems clear that the emerging agreement between the US and Canada attempts to create this balance. Time will tell if it actually succeeds.

Biometric Stocks in the news

Three Small-Cap Tech Stocks Poised to Benefit From Mobile Commerce (
Steven Bulwa (who discloses that he owns shares in Authentec: AUTH), draws attention the biometrics in the context of mobile transaction identity assurance.

If you're only interested in the part of the article dealing with biometrics, scroll down to the last section. It's headed Securing the Transaction.

Another publicly trading biometrics pure play that has been in the news is BIO-key (OTCBB:BKYI)
See: BIO-key Takes Steps to Improve Its Balance Sheet (

Disclosure: the author holds no positions in either of the securities linked in this post.

Nothing in this post should be construed as financial advice or a recommendation either to own or to avoid owning either linked security.

Face-Rec helps gambling addicts, reduces fraud

Facial recognition a system problem gamblers can’t beat? (Toronto Star)

An unfortunate fact of life is that every time we institute a new program designed to help the truly afflicted, fraudsters come out of the woodwork to exploit the program.

Problem gamblers' registries are humane tools designed to minimize the social cost of gambling by allowing problem gamblers to exclude themselves from facilities where gambling takes place.

If a self-excluded gambler is served by a casino, any losses are unenforceable and the money must be returned to the person who should not have been served.

This created an irresistible opportunity for some to commit fraud. Simply enroll in the problem gambler database and if you can sneak into a casino, you can't lose. If you win, you leave; if you lose, you get your money back.

Enter Face-Rec.
Problem gamblers beware. The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. — which critics say hasn't done enough to keep you out — plans to be up to the challenge this spring.

OLG is set to unveil a new facial recognition program at all 27 of its gambling facilities in Ontario. It's being praised as a high roller in the privacy protection game.

“It's the most privacy-protected system using biometric encryption in the world,” said Ann Cavoukian, Ontario's privacy commissioner, who approved the new system.

Those who think society should take a more active role in creating the structures to help the vulnerable should be open-minded about reducing the opportunities for fraud that social programs invite. High-tech identity management techniques are a piece of the puzzle and they can be implemented in ways that are consistent with individual privacy.

Earlier post on the subject here.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Maxwell-Gunter Air Force base rolls out new identification system

Text and Video at the link (Alabama Live)
The new system to identify the 50,000 patrons requiring base access was rolled out on Jan. 4, and in just three days, more than 1,180 people have gone to get new identification cards made at one of the six registering stations on base.

Staff Sgt. Joshua Allen, 42nd Security Forces Squadron NCO in charge of pass and registration, said that the registration process has been well received among those who access the base.

There are a lot of benefits to a system like this. The first and most obvious is increased security. Then, increased efficiency of security personnel can bring positive ROI. We talk about these things here all the time.

These types of identity management systems can also play a very important, even life-saving, role in an emergency. They accomplish this through better data capture and management. In a deployment like this, Security Forces Squadron Officers will have a much better idea of who is on base and where they are at any given moment.

If, for example, there's an explosion and fire in a given structure, and the information exists to determine exactly who was in the building, emergency workers can more quickly determine whether all people known to have been in the building are accounted for. This makes it both less likely that emergency workers will give up on possible survivors too early and less likely that they will spend too much time in extreme danger looking for people who aren't there.

This "better safety through better data" application of identity management technology applies in a lot of places but to military bases the application is obvious.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Most Security Measures Easy to Breach

Vulnerability Assessment Team at Argonne National Laboratory break into "foolproof" systems (
"Yes, we almost never need a high-tech attack against a high-tech system. We actually defeated a biometric access control device with parts from a BIC pen."

That's because the "bad guys", as he likes to call them, aren't necessarily going to even try to outsmart gee-whiz gizmos. After all, why go after a retinal scanner when you can simply use a credit card to open the virtually unsecured door?

I'm curious about the BIC pen hack. It was mentioned at the Argonne National Laboratories site back in November. It seems like they're keeping mum for now. Given that they're a government agency and the linked story states the device in question was intended to protect nuclear material, that's probably a good thing.

Dr. Roger Johnson makes excellent points about the nature of security in both linked sources.

His main thesis seems to be: While there is no such thing as perfect security, most people aren't really even trying that hard.

It's hard to argue with that, and Dr. Johnson seems to appreciate the difference between rational security measures and "security theater".

There is a cost-benefit analysis that goes into security purchasing decisions. The closest thing to perfect security is what the Secret Service does for the President. That type of security is afforded to only a handful of people and few of us would choose that type of security for ourselves even if we could afford it.

The more efficient security solution for the vast majority of us is investment in reasonably efficient law enforcement, reasonably effective alarm systems, and the creation of a reasonable amount of uncertainty in the mind of the bad guy.

Security systems don't have to be perfect to be rational. This is why we spend so much time here discussing Return On Investment (ROI). If a given solution improves security and implies lower costs, it should be adopted.

Security theater is different. Giving the illusion of security in an insecure environment is worse than not having any security at all.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Drivers for change in the physical access control space

Cost, security and convenience (
...[T]the three core elements of the customer value equation - cost, security and convenience – continue to fuel drivers for change in the physical access control space as increased convenience, lower total cost of ownership and achieving higher levels of security continue to dictate market development.
Lower cost + better performance = Increased ROI

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Sydney Airport expands biometrics use

SmartGates expanded, passengers through Customs in 38 seconds, Home Affairs minister claims (
“There’s strong demand for SmartGate from passengers and these new kiosks and gate help meet the increasing desire for non-invasive, efficient and tech savvy ways to travel," O'Connor claimed. “The system is easy to use and it is a safe and convenient alternative for clearing through passport control.”
It's about people, after all. Far from being a scary technology, customers demand smarter, more convenient identity management solutions.

Biometrics Industry in the Middle East

Changes in security legislation under the spotlight at Intersec Conference (
There is a marked increase in demand for biometric access and egress control systems, video surveillance systems and perimeter control machinery in countries around the region, which is expected to impact the market for these products quite significantly.
The Intersec security conference has been going on since 1998.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Airports toy with the idea of tossing the TSA

The interaction between airport managers and the TSA (part rule-setting government agency and part airport service provider) makes for interesting reading. This morning's article, "Airports toy with the idea of tossing the TSA" makes it clear that while the TSA doesn't quite have a security services monopoly, they do set the rules of the industry in which they compete.
"TSA issues the RFP [request for proposal] and selects and manages the contractor" that steps in, said Michael McCarron, director of community affairs at San Francisco International...

"TSA sets the security standards that must be followed and that includes the use of enhanced pat-downs and imaging technology, if installed at the airport," said TSA spokesperson Greg Soule...

"We aim to ensure that the highest level of security is balanced by the most passenger-friendly service possible," said Nancy Suey Castle, a spokesperson for Los Angeles World Airports. "Contracting private screeners could be a method to achieve this goal."
The linked article is well-sourced, accounting for many of those who have a hand in making the airport security sausage.

Biometrics help with Nigerian military pensions

Ex-Servicemen Assured of Prompt Pension Payment (
Kwaji said that retired defence personnel receive their financial benefits without delay each month, adding that as soon the details of retired personnel are made available to the board by the branch of the military where he served, all the payment processes will be completed and the beneficiary gets paid from that month. He said the use of biometrics in pension's payment has eliminated fraud in the system and made payment faster.
A recent post on Nigeria's efforts to combat corruption and government waste through better identity management may be read here:
Nigerian police force discovers 20,000 ghost workers in its ranks

Monday, January 3, 2011

U.S. Trusted Traveler Program should be re-launched as a serious risk-based security program

Business Travel Coalition (BTC) reiterated its support for positive-profiling of airline passengers transiting the U.S. aviation system (
The article suggests three changes that would allow the Trusted Traveler program to live up to its potential:
  • Member Background Checks
  • RT Vendor Technology Ownership
  • Member Enrollment Model
The author makes several very interesting points in the first and third sections.