About the need to protect Biometric Data

An article stating the need to protect biometric data appeared in the IEEE spectrum magazine. Not a lot of new information, a good summary of the threats as biometrics are being used more and more as authenticators.

 

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Your tax Pounds at work – UK government to make ID thieves lives easier

Having all your personal information in one ID is not a very good idea, even if protected by a good encryption scheme. Having all your information in a card protected with a bad encryption scheme is definitely a bad idea.

That seems to be the case with the ID cards issued by the Home Office to foreign nationals working in the UK. As described in a news article, it looks that a cell phone fitted with an RFID scanner and a laptop is all the hardware you need to clone one of these cards and even change the information on it.

Embedded inside the card for foreigners is a microchip with the details of its bearer held in electronic form: name, date of birth, physical characteristics, fingerprints and so on, together with other information such as immigration status and whether the holder is entitled to State benefits.

This chip is the vital security measure that, so the Government believes, will make identity cards ‘unforgeable’.

But as I watch, Laurie picks up a mobile phone and, using just the handset and a laptop computer, electronically copies the ID card microchip and all its information in a matter of minutes.

He then creates a cloned card, and with a little help from another technology expert, he changes all the information the card contains – the physical details of the bearer, name, fingerprints and so on. And he doesn’t stop there.

[Read the whole Mail-Online article]

These cards use the same technology as the ID card for British citizens unveiled last week by Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary. ID thieves must be anxiously waiting for the introduction of government ID cards, which will facilitate their daily jobs.  

 

One Password fits all

I recently discussed the problems associated with weak passwords here. Since then, there have been a few cases of hackers publishing stolen passwords form popular sites such as phpbb or the passwords that the conficker worm uses to spread across shares. Some researches report that people often use the same password on many websites making themselves vulnerable to serious attack if the password for a low value website is the same as the one used in a high value target

Password selection tips abound and as long as your password has enough entropy, users data is somewhat out of reach of most hackers.

Despite the advice of security gurus, the manifest limitations of the average human brain for generating and remembering more than a few passwords is a physical barrier to a widespread adoption secure practices. Password managers may help to keep your passwords organized. They have functions to generate strong passwords and can connect directly with browsers or e-mail programs.

Another way around is the OpenID network that allow users to have one identity for multiple on-line services. The OpenID protocol is inclusive enough that can work as an Authenticator using biometrics or smart-tokens.  Open ID is still in the adoption phase, not all online services accept it.

Medical Identity Theft

If you are already scared of ID thieves getting your financial information,  prepare to panic about this:

Medical identity theft is a growing issue in North America and growing even larger in a recession where pinching pennies can mean pinching someone else’s identity to get access to health care services, prescription drugs, elective surgery and dental care.

“Stolen patient identities not only create a financial problem for the victim; the corruption of the individual’s medical history could prove lethal in a medical emergency,” says Darin Johnson, vice-president of marketing for HealthCare Insight, based in South Jordan, Utah.

Read the whole article here.

Also: A crime that does pay, Better safeguards in the cards

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