Airports look to biometrics for security
By Brian Fonseca
March 1, 2002 3:31 pm PT (C) idg.net
U.S. AIRPORTS UNDER intense public and legislative pressure to revamp security checkpoints and prove passenger identities following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are examining the role that biometrics and new IT security innovations can play in safeguarding air travelers.
In response, vendors are stepping up with new offerings. On Monday, Chyrsalis-ITS and AiT will announce a partnership to create a cryptographic digital signature and public and private key management solution capable of pinpointing forgery of or tampering with passports and travel documents.
Designed to plug into multiple biometrics templates and platforms, AiT’s GenIE secure document issuance system will correlate certified digital signatures with stored facial, fingerprint, or iris data to confirm that the personal document has not been altered, according to Alan Boat, CTO of Ottawa, Ontario-based AiT.
“We can use a digital signature to authenticate the document, and then we can use biometrics to authenticate the individual,” said Boate. “The idea here is you have an authenticated block of data. It’s protected by digital signatures, and it can be verified wherever you take off or land.”
Boate said Chrysalis-ITS, also based in Ottawa, will provide the boxes to authenticate digital signature requests and manage and store the private root keys to sign biometric and text data.
The call for heightened security at borders and travel hubs is at a fever pitch. For instance, the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2001, currently before the U.S. Senate, seeks to require countries participating or interested in joining the U.S. Visa Waiver program to institute tamper resistant passports equipped with biometric identifiers.
According to Chris Christiansen, program vice president for Framingham, Mass.-based IDC’s e-business infrastructure and Internet security services, the strength of biometrics lies not as a standalone security tool, but rather as a “human element” cog within a multi-factor authentication system.
“Biometrics will not be the sole technology being used for authentication, and it shouldn’t be. Security is about adding layers, it’s not about substituting technology,” said Christiansen. “The human element [in security”> is extremely important [and is achieved by”> a combination of biometrics, identity, and smart card technology.”
In order to be successful, Christiansen said the visibility of biometrics facial identification technology should be negligible and transparent to the average traveler to avoid inconvenience.
This week, Inforonics ABS (Advanced Biometric Security), Viisage, and DynCorp announced a partnership to provide integrated facial recognition technology for assessment at Logan International Airport in Boston. Sponsored by the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) and Logan Airport, the 90-day technology evaluation is designed to demonstrate for government agencies and airline industry the role biometrics can play at Logan and other U.S. airports, said Dave Gabree, managing vice president of Littleton, Mass.-based Inforonics ABS. The evaluation, about halfway toward completion, is being monitored and coordinated by Counter Technology.
Logan Airport has fallen under intense scrutiny and criticism since two terrorist teams were able to bypass the airport’s security screening system and take control of American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 on the morning of Sept. 11. The planes struck and destroyed the World Trade Center North and South towers, respectively.
Logan Airport could not be reached for comment for this article.
Gabree said Inforonics ABS, a division of MSP (managed services provider) vendor Inforonics, is combining its plug-in ready enterprise biometrics framework with Viisage’s face recognition technology and DynCorp’s software application management solution.
Designed to work in conjunction with stationed National Guardsmen at airport security checkpoints, the technology lies within a camera located near the metal detectors. Captured images of passengers coming through the magnetic-scanning machine are compared against a database to screen for wanted or suspicious individuals.
Tom Sheehan, chief of police at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, said his facility is considering implementing a multi-factor fingerprint and facial recognition system to secure high priority access areas. He said a combination of biometrics and electronic entry system technology is needed to institute multiple methods to verify someone’s identity.
“That’s one of the reasons we’re looking at putting a biometrics system in to our access to areas. It is difficult to circumvent,” Sheehan remarked.
Currently, the Dallas/Fort Worth airport uses an electronic fingerprint system to perform background checks on employees applying for specific security badges or apprehended criminals.
Christiansen said last week’s merger of biometrics powerhouses Identix and Visionics will significantly enhance product development efforts between the two companies to push biometrics into new realms of functionality.
Joe Atick, formerly chairman and CEO of Jersey City, N.J.-based Visionics and CEO of the newly formed biometrics company, said that after Sept. 11, customers began to ask for total security in the company’s product deployments.
“There is a lot of people who built an impression of biometrics based on old experiences, they were expensive, they were clunky,” said Atick. “We have an opportunity to do airport security right, and to a trusted traveler that status is critical — to feel safe and not hindered but at the same time not compromising protection.”
Brian Fonseca is an InfoWorld staff writer.
WOW – no illegal immigration from now on. Your tax Dollars/Pounds/Euros will be wisely spent on those who contribute 🙂