Passport Security: An Ongoing Challenge for Governments

People are on the move. The International Civil Aviation Organization reported that over 3.1 billion people traveled by air to various destinations around the world last year. Governments must juggle the tasks of providing a hospitable and efficient travel environment in order to attract tourist dollars while at the same time ensuring the safety of its citizens and borders. This makes efficient yet accurate and safe passport security a high priority for government agencies.

New Security Measures

In response to various security incidents worldwide, including threats and terrorist attacks, such as 9-11, the international travel organization made several recommendations and requirements for more secure passport documents. Biometrics became the new international standard for fraud-proof passports, but the technology has not been universally accepted. The electronic chip seems to be the most palpable and is most popular in use and implementation today. There has been resistance to other biometric identifiers such as retinal scans, facial recognition and fingerprints due to privacy issues and concerns.

family checking in at airline counter

Evolving Technologies Create Challenges to Security Systems

However, as quickly as security experts develop the newest secure systems to protect personal passport information, new technologies arise that give opportunities to counterfeiters, terrorists and other criminals to access and use confidential passport data. An example is the smartphone. Each new version of the smartphone contains higher levels of technologies, such that now the fraud-resistant passport can easily be breached by a properly rigged smartphone, swiftly and without the holder ever knowing. Smartphones enabled with NFC (Near Field Communication) are able to read the data contained on the electronic chip within 30 seconds. The smartphone can quickly snap a photo of the passport when it is opened to present to authorities. US passports contain RFID-proof technologies that block access as long as the passport is closed.

The lightning speed with which technology advances and spreads around the world means that governments must remain vigilant and continually invest resources and efforts towards developing the most stringent and state-of-the-art protection & security technologies possible.