Feeds

Biometrics won't fix data loss problems

Academics attack government untruths on ID

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Six leading academics have written to a Parliamentary committee to express their dismay at the way biometrics has been used as a magic wand which would have supposedly stopped Darling's great data giveaway.

The six said of claims by the Prime Minister and his Chancellor: "These assertions are based on a fairy-tale view of the capabilities of the technology and in addition, only deal with one aspect of the problems that this type of data breach causes."

Both Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling claimed, after the loss of CDs containing 25m recipients of child benefit, that the data would somehow be protected by biometric information if we had national ID cards.

The letter points out that this is based on three suppositions - that the entire UK population can be enrolled on the database; that no one can forge biometric information; and finally that every ID check would include checks against biometric information on the national database.

The letter said:

Even if, in this fairy-tale land, it came to pass that (a) (b) and (c) were true after all (which we consider most unlikely), the proposed roll-out of the National Identity Scheme would mean that this level of 'protection' would not - on the Home Office's own highly optimistic projections - be extended to the entire population before the end of the next decade (i.e. 2020) at the earliest.

The academics also note that including biometric information on a national ID register would make such records even more valuable to fraudsters, and once compromised make "fixing" the problem even more difficult.

The inclusion of biometric data in one's NIR record would make such a record even more valuable to fraudsters and thieves as it would - if leaked or stolen - provide the 'key' to all uses of that individual's biometrics (e.g. accessing personal or business information on a laptop, biometric access to bank accounts, etc.) for the rest of his or her life. Once lost, it would be impossible to issue a person with new fingerprints. One cannot change one's fingers as one can a bank account.

The six academics also point out that leaking such personal data is not just a question of hassle for people but could be potentially fatal for "the directors of Huntingdon Life Sciences, victims of domestic violence or former Northern Ireland ministers".

The open letter, available here, was sent to Andrew Dismore MP, chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

The academics behind the letter include Professor Ross Anderson and Dr Richard Clayton of the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory, and Dr Ian Brown of the Oxford Internet Institute. Other signers include Dr Brian Gladman, formerly of the Ministry of Defence and NATO, Professor Angela Sasse of UCL's Department of Computer Science and Martyn Thomas CBE FREng. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Bono apologises for iTunes album dump
Megalomania, generosity and FEAR of irrelevance drove group to Apple deal
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express
Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.