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EU agency runs rule over ID cards for online banking logins

What could possibly go wrong?

A study by an EU cybersecurity agency into the use of electronic identity cards for online banking has highlighted seven types of vulnerability and 15 possible threats.

ENISA (the European Network and Information Security Agency) compared the suitability of smart eID cards to other authentication techniques for online banking, such as two-factor authentication and the use of mobiles to send out transaction authorisation codes.

ID cards can be applied to the world of online banking but seven classes of risks need to be taken into account before rolling out the technology. These problem include flaws in smart card design, weak or flawed cryptography protocols, keylogging Trojans or other malware on PCs used for internet banking, and card theft.

ENISA also suggests that a standardised approach to authentication using ID cards is needed before they can be widely used for online banking or other sensitive applications, such as accessing government services. Better standards for integration between smartcard readers and PCs are among the technologies that need to be developed and widely adopted before the technology can really take off, it suggests. Privacy concerns are a further complicating factor.

Despite its caution, ENISA wants national ID cards to become as flexible and as multi-purpose as possible, adding "[the] universally applicable eID card is technologically feasible." The report doesn't address the question of whether this is desirable.

Dr Udo Helmbrecht, executive director of ENISA, concludes: "Electronic identity cards offer secure, reliable electronic authentication to internet services, but banks and governments must cooperate better to be able to use national eID cards for banking purposes."

ENISA's 41 page paper on national ID cards and electronic banking, which provides a comprehensive overview of authentication technologies and attack scenarios while being a bit light on conclusions, can be found here. ®

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