Feeds

Germany rolls out ePassport II - it's fingerprinting good!

Enhanced security is 'tamper proof'

Reducing security risks from open source software

Germany is switching over to the second generation of ePassport passports, with the addition of fingerprint biometrics. Fingerprints become mandatory in June 2009*, and according to NXP, which supplies the chips for the passports, it will be the first country in the world "to introduce second-generation ePassports with enhanced security."

That qualifier is, we suspect, significant and worth considering with reference to any fingerprint-bearing passport that shipped earlier than the German version, which starts moving as of today.

The SmartMX chip in the new German ePassports supports Extended Access Control (EAC), which uses enhanced levels of security to protect the on-chip biometrics, on the basis that fingerprints are deemed more 'private' than face. And on top of that, widespread escape of fingerprints could create a pretty mess in the wonderful biometric world of the future, but the ePassport evangelists tend not to stress that point. The German system uses encryption to protect the biometric data as it's communicated to the reader and, according to the German Interior Ministry, "achieves a security level which experts consider tamper-proof also in the future."

EAC also allows passport reading rights to be restricted to authorised readers, and can withhold access to the fingerprint data if the device isn't authorised to read them (which would likely be the case for non-German passport readers that were still on generation one).

The extent to which the security of second generation ePassports can be preserved has, obviously, yet to be determined. As the German version roll out, a substantial installed base of them will swiftly build up, and there will be a lot of authorised readers around - Germany has already taken delivery of 18,000 fingerprint readers. The first generation of ePassport was, as has been demonstrated several times, fairly easy to read. The second may indeed be tamper-proof, but how secure will the readers be, in Germany and, soon, in other countries?

NXP, founded by Philips, claims involvement in over 80 per cent of all ePassport schemes and has shipped over 100 million chips so far. ®

* Where the UK's at Do you really want to hear this again? The UK, as a non-Schengen country, is not bound by the EU decision to add fingerprints to passports. The UK has in fact already met ICAO's biometric passport requirement with the ones it's now shipping. But it's pressing ahead with huge databases, ID schemes and fingerprints in passports anyway, while shouting 'ICAO made us do it! It's the EU standard! It's really cheap, really.' You might consider the possibility that we only didn't sign up to Schengen so that we could concentrate on implementing the most aggravating and repressive parts of it, while not bothering with the kids stuff.

Maximizing your infrastructure through virtualization

More from The Register

next story
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
Major problems beset UK ISP filth filters: But it's OK, nobody uses them
It's almost as though pr0n was actually rather popular
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
ITC: Seagate and LSI can infringe Realtek patents because Realtek isn't in the US
Land of the (get off scot) free, when it's a foreign owner
MPs wave through Blighty's 'EMERGENCY' surveillance laws
Only 49 politcos voted against DRIP bill
EU's top data cops to meet Google, Microsoft et al over 'right to be forgotten'
Plan to hammer out 'coherent' guidelines. Good luck chaps!
US judge: YES, cops or feds so can slurp an ENTIRE Gmail account
Crooks don't have folders labelled 'drug records', opines NY beak
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.