Sic transit gloria ID?

August 10, 2009

ID card pic via Getty ImagesAccording to several sources (initially The Daily Mail but also Computer Weekly, ZDNet News and various others), Britain’s shiny new ID cards – as recently unveiled by Home Secretary Alan Johnson (link here) – appear to have been cloned, and the personal details on the chip changed, by “a researcher” named Adam Laurie.

[…] 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.

(Via The Daily Mail)

However, not everyone is convinced:

“This story is rubbish,” the Home Office said in a statement. “We are satisfied the personal data on the chip cannot be changed or modified and there is no evidence this has happened.”

(Via ZDNet News)

It’s a little disappointing (but perhaps not surprising) that neither side seems able to provide empirical evidence to either support or refute the claim – I wouldn’t trust either a tabloid newspaper or a government department to present an unbiased analysis. All electronic and digital technologies are potentially vulnerable to breaches of security, we know that. The point is what defences are available to mitigate any system compromises. As David Lacey says in his op-ed piece at Computer Weekly (link here):

The issue is not whether it’s possible to forge or modify an Identity card. It’s whether that forgery can be detected in circumstances where the risk becomes significant.

Which makes reasonable sense to me – and certainly you would hope that, given the Home Office’s fervour to introduce ID cards come hell or high water, it would be less dismissive of Mr Laurie’s claim and more attentive to discovering the facts of the matter.

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Curtsey to Polly at GSUK for the heads-up

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