Figure 1: Good card stock can be flexed like this over 100,000 time
In a word in which the most dangerous villains use the most sophisticated anti-security methods, identification cards are coming under increased scrutiny:

“Is that driver’s license or ID card an authentic document?”

“Does it have all of the security features that staff have been told to look out for?”

Secure identification usually starts with a photo ID card; its key features being simply a good photographic likeness and a legible signature. Years ago, those features alone were thought to be sufficient. But such visual comparison methods are time and labor consuming, and not altogether accurate, while today’s identity thieves and fake ID producers have found numerous techniques to get around a simple picture and signature. Issuing authorities now incorporate a host of additional features in their photo ID cards to deter counterfeiting, while making authentication easier and more reliable.

The new authentication processes come from a combination of media features, printer capability, database verification, and singular or unusual techniques, including covert and forensic features.

Media features, which pertain to the material from which the card itself is fashioned, include surface quality, durability and some built-in security elements. Printer capability encompasses high resolution graphics and reliable bar codes in addition to any covert features printed at the time of issue. Database verification consists of a central archive of cardholder data, including a photo, personal statistics, employee number, date, time and place of issue. Card manufacturers also can usually offer a number of uniquely engineered security features, which are only shared with customers to protect their covert qualities.

Figure 3: Card manufacturers can print graphics into the card’s laminate, with options like invisible ink, holographic metallization and embossed text available.

Start with strong cards

First and most important, the card itself has to be tough. Gone are the days when ID cards could be printed on garden variety PVC stock with a photo that merely resembled the cardholder. Today’s cards must be extremely durable. A good card stock usually has ten times the flex life of regular PVC cards (see Figure 1). Such stock should meet or exceed all international standards for resistance to cracking, permanent adhesion of over-laminate and durability of image.

The lanyard slot in a regular PVC card is often fragile. If it tears out, an unauthorized user needs only to change the photo to go past a careless inspector. Therefore, the end user should choose a card that does not tear easily, keeping a look out for unique, tear-resistant designs when making a purchase.

Figure 2: Special security features can often be printed directly on the card. Micro-printing of text, designs and graphics can secure the validity of signatures and make

the card difficult to duplicate.

Modern print features are hard to copy

In this security-conscious age, government and other large organizations usually prefer customized card media of constantly increasing sophistication. Multiple security features not only create greater difficulties for counterfeiters , but guards can use them to quickly validate unique features known only to the organization’s security force.

There are many techniques that companies can employ with digital printers to prevent counterfeiting, alteration or duplication, including the use of multiple security images or holograms. One security image alone increases the difficulty of counterfeiting; two makes it at least twice as hard. The holographic image lamination process also provides a visually attractive card. Multiple screenings of the same photograph increase the card’s integrity; this practice has almost become the norm on driver’s licenses.

Card manufacturers can offer a number of pre-printed security features, including ultraviolet-visible text and graphics in green and blue. Micro-printing allows text to be added to the end user’s specifications, using techniques like deliberately random font changes and misspellings to add to a card’s inimitability. Character height for such text is only about 0.005 inches. Pre-printed serial numbers can also be incorporated into card stock. Laser etching is another option. Fine line guilloche patterns with hidden micro-text behind a signature line have been successful in foiling counterfeiters, while micro-printing of text or miniature graphic elements are also difficult to duplicate (see Figure 2).

An over-laminate film can add security to the printed ID card. The inner surface of the laminate can be pre-printed with OVI ink or UV-visible ink in up to three colors. Today’s high-tech printers can also laminate with holographic metallization, including embossed micro-text (see Figure 3).

Keeping track of critical information

It’s important to keep track of card transactions in the printer’s host computer. Cards reader systems can obtain personal and other point-of-issue data, providing a means for security officers to validate the card by comparing its information with centrally located data.

Card serialization also adds security. Printers with the magnetic stripe encoder, proximity encoder and smart card contact options can be set up to function only with serial numbered card stock, and also to add serial numbers to the data recorded by a card reading system. When used with a database, the technology can allow a security officer to instantly check the correlation of a person’s card serial number and credentials in addition to performing a usual comparison of photo and subject.

By utilizing the latest printing and card stock technology, an organization can rest assured that it is doing everything it can to prevent identity fraud and verify that a cardholder is who they say they are. In a world of advanced security risks, today’s security systems can require no less.

Sidebar: More Security to Protect Privacy, Too

Numerous federal, state and industry rules and regulations now aim at protecting the privacy of workers, customers and visitors.

One example comes from Software House of Lexington, Mass., with its release of C•CURE 800 (version 8.2).

It includes new features that answer the latest needs in security, including meeting recent federal mandates for the health industry, enhancing worker privacy and simplifying security managers’ jobs.

According to Software House, these new features include enhanced audit trail capabilities for changes made to the access control system, biometric enrollment support with ID badging, and enhanced database partitioning to streamline and protect the access control provisioning process.

The audit trail feature is especially helpful in protecting the integrity of company records. It lets a security official view modifications made to essential data fields such as the level of security clearance - ultimately protecting sensitive company and personnel information.

This feature is especially useful for healthcare companies and their security and information technology operations charged with protecting medical records due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA includes provisions that mandate the adoption of federal privacy protections for individually identifiable health information. Companies not meeting the requirements set forth in HIPAA could face large civil fines and criminal penalties.