Authentication emerges as new layer of access security

Monday, March 1, 2004

While verification has been the mainstay of access control systems, many in the industry say that authentication and validation of documents - be it a card, passport, driver’s license or other form of identification - is the next frontier to be conquered.

Beyond determining whether a document is real comes the greater questions of is the person who is holding the document who they say they are and if so, what are they allowed to be doing?

Central databases are often used for this validation purpose, noted Phil Libin, president and co-founder of CoreStreet, a validation software provider based in Cambridge, Mass., “but that doesn’t work in the real world.”

Libin said validation needs to take place quickly, yet securely. CoreStreet’s software uses a series of patented proofs to validate everything from secure email and document signing to smart locks, Libin noted.

The technology, he said, is demonstration of how physical security and IT are increasingly coming together. “The two worlds are interconnected,” Libin said.

Imaging Automation has also taken a role in the document authentication arena, beginning with border control, but increasingly finding interest with more conventional access control situations, said Bud Cunningham, director of business development for the Bedford, N.H.-based firm.

“ We’re finding a tremendous amount of activity in access control,” Cunningham said, such as document authentication at a nuclear power plant and within a correctional facility.

Just verifying a document is no longer enough, Cunningham said, “you also need to authenticate it so you can be sure it hasn’t been tampered with.” He said this check of documents used to receive access credentials is one growing area.

In addition, he said, card-based systems are adding features that can be checked by Imaging Automation’s system. These forensic checks can include video images for facial recognition or other biometrics.

John Dorr, vice president-marketing at Viisage Technology, Littleton, Mass., said facial recognition systems help answer that question of “is the person who is holding the credential really that person and has the rights to it.”

While still on the “bleeding edge,” Dorr said systems such as Viisage’s deal with the access control’s greater issue of ID validation “rather than just how can I open the door?”

Facial recognition for access control, Dorr said, is still typically used “in a setting where you want to have more control, rather than less control.” This includes security points at airport, high-security government facilities or even government contractors.

Already used in several states to assist in validation for driver’s license issuance, Dorr said facial recognition systems also have applications beyond access control and surveillance, such as identifying high rollers at a casino for special attention, or verifying criminals’ identities in a pre-booking process.

What is comes down to, said Cunningham, is the need for more than one step to gain access or validate identity. “More and more commercial and state businesses are seeing it’s important to add layers of security,” he said.