Feeds

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

Enhanced security is 'tamper proof'

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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.

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Hello, police, El Reg here. Are we a bunch of terrorists now?
Do Brits risk arrest for watching beheading video nasty? We asked the fuzz
Detroit losing MILLIONS because it buys CHEAP BATTERIES – report
Man at hardware store was right: name brands DO last longer
Snowden on NSA's MonsterMind TERROR: It may trigger cyberwar
Plus: Syria's internet going down? That was a US cock-up
UK government accused of hiding TRUTH about Universal Credit fiasco
'Reset rating keeps secrets on one-dole-to-rule-them-all plan', say MPs
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
e-Borders fiasco: Brits stung for £224m after US IT giant sues UK govt
Defeat to Raytheon branded 'catastrophic result'
Yes, but what are your plans if a DRAGON attacks?
Local UK gov outs most ridiculous FoI requests...
EU justice chief blasts Google on 'right to be forgotten'
Don't pretend it's a freedom of speech issue – interim commish
Munich considers dumping Linux for ... GULP ... Windows!
Give a penguinista a hug, the Outlook's not good for open source's poster child
This'll end well: US govt says car-to-car jibber-jabber will SAVE lives
Department of Transportation starts cogs turning for another wireless comms standard
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.