Biometric passports a failure

The US State Department’s  biometric passport system is a bit of a failure.

The problem is not that a hacker can break into the passport, but it is still far too easy to force all the “evidence” required to create one in the first place.

Since 2006, U.S. passports have been issued with an embedded radio-frequency identification (RFID) tracking chip. The big idea was to reduce unauthorised entry into the country.

However a Senate Judiciary subcommittee heard evidence from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) which reported that despite the high-tech efforts, passport fraud is still too “easy.”

Gregory D. Kutz, GAO’s managing director for special investigations, told the Washington Times that while it is hard to counterfeit the passport, the best way to get a U.S. passport if you’re a fraudster is to create counterfeit breeder documents, steal someone’s identity and get your passport that way.

Investigators at GAO used the basic techniques of an identity thief to conduct an undercover sting operation. Apparently they wanted to find out whether the State Department’s passport examiners would catch on to the tricks not of highly skilled expert forgers, but of clumsy amateurs.

The GAO team used really cheap gear to fabricate some really dodgy looking bogus documents, including birth certificates.

They then filed several passport applications, each of which contained deliberate errors that should have been spotted readily had anyone been paying attention. Out of seven bogus applications, five genuine passports were issued.

GAO then told the State Department bureaucrats who reviewed all the applications and found three of the fakes.

GAO recommended that the State Department improve the training given to passport examiners and that it implements better data-validation techniques. 

What is a little annoying is that the US insisted that other countries in its Empire use the same biometric system at a great expense.  Its former overlord, the UK, bowed and introduced it.  Now it is being seen as a case of technology creating more of a problem than it solved, the question is why the UK adopted it without engaging brains.