Any high security ID card implementation must address three aspects of security protection: 1) tampering with valid cards, 2) counterfeiting of cards and 3) unauthorized production of authentic cards.
Cards produced in any of the applications discussed to this point should have a basic level of tamper resistance. In the case of inkjet printer-produced cards, tamper resistance is obtained by laminating the card with a product that will deface the printed information and photo if attempts are made to separate the material. Cards produced on direct-to-card-type printers should include at least a basic overlaminate material to perform the same tamper-resistant function.
A basic level of counterfeit protection can be obtained by utilizing, as card stock, something more than a plain, white card. One choice involves hot-stamping onto the card a two-dimensional foil containing a special logo or image. Additional protection is achieved when this process involves a three-dimensional holographic image. Either process helps verify the ID card was created within the end user’s organization. However, this process alone is not adequate protection against a serious counterfeit threat.
Visual security elements, usually incorporated in either the film for a high-definition card printer or the overlaminate in a direct-to-card printer, act to deter counterfeit attempts and allow easy, visual verification of authenticity (see diagram on page 126 of the September issue).
Up to three levels of visual security elements, each containing one or more types, may be incorporated in the production of a high-security ID card.
The first level is considered overt since its features, such as morphing images, flipping images, fine-line designs or pseudo colors, are easily recognized by visual inspection of the card. Since these features are difficult to duplicate, they present a visual deterrent to counterfeiting attempts and make counterfeit cards easier to identify.
The second level of the visual security element set is considered covert since its features are not apparent to the naked eye. Micro text is so detailed an inkjet, laser or dye-sublimation printer cannot duplicate it. Since it must be magnified 1,000 percent in order to be visible and readable, many counterfeiters may not know the feature exists. Verification requires a magnification device and should be used in a way that the cardholder or casual observer is not aware of what is being inspected. Hidden text is another feature in the covert level. To view this text, which is customized for each end user, a special laser viewer must be used to verify authenticity.
The third visual security element level is considered forensic. Nano text is one feature in this level. Nano text must be enlarged 2,000 percent by a high-powered microscope to view the custom text hidden within visual design elements of the card. Other features in the forensic level are customized for specific applications and remain confidential between the card supplier and the end user.
Card Printing Methods Include Inkjet, Direct-to-Card, High Def
Since all of the applications discussed in this article potentially use the same card production process, the following description of production methods will generally apply to all applications. The least expensive production method is also (no surprise) the least secure. Printers using an inkjet printing engine are designed to accept blank cards with a surface that will accept ink. Not only are these printers less expensive initially, the ink cartridges are relatively inexpensive compared to more advanced printing media. Security weaknesses include a lack of built-in lamination and print definition quality needed for higher security applications.
The next step in the production spectrum utilizes the most popular method found today: Direct-to-card (DTC) printers using a dye-sublimation process where a print head transfers colors from a special ribbon directly to the card as it is passed under the print head. Advanced models of DTC printers can also be equipped to apply either a standard lamination layer or a high-security overlaminate containing at least one visual security element.
Various ribbons are available for DTC printers based on the ID card design and security needs of the end user. Full-color ribbons blend up to 16.7 million colors to produce photo-quality images. Full-color ribbons are also available with a special fluorescing panel to produce a covert visual security element viewable only under ultraviolet light.
When producing barcodes encoded with cardholder-specific data, one of two types of black may be used. The standard black produced by dye-sublimation ribbons produces a barcode that can only be read by a visible-light reader. Black resin ribbons produce a barcode readable by infrared-light readers. This provides a higher level of security since the more sophisticated infrared-based reader will reject a copied barcode.
The most expensive and most secure method of ID card production uses a high-definition printer. This type of printer actually first prints an extremely high-quality image onto a special film, then the film is transferred by a heat and pressure process to the ID card. This special film can be ordered with one or more custom visual security elements chosen from the overt, covert or forensic levels.
High Demand Means Opportunities With Existing and New Clients
With all of the changes taking place in the ID card segment of the security industry, it is imperative for the systems integrator to revisit existing clients to review their ID card needs. A review of the security of their existing card production methods, including compliance with HSPD-12 and FIPS 201 (when applicable), along with accessing their needs for a secure visitor management system will likely turn up new business opportunities.
Next, an exploration of ID card customers who traditionally do not come to security systems integrators for their badging needs will uncover end users that wish to upgrade their ID card security. These potential customers are, no doubt, looking to implement new physical security systems.
Finally, since the initial investment, setup, and training needed to institute an identification system based on ID cards can be very costly, the systems integrator should consider becoming an outsourced ID card production provider to small organizations, such as small businesses, small utilities, membership clubs, school districts and local governments.
Just as the alarm system dealer branched into CCTV and then into access control, it is time for the progressive systems integrator to look beyond just providing printers and cards to access control system users and become more involved in the overall identification process.
For the complete version of this story, see the March issue of Security Sales & Integration magazine.
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