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The long road to securing our driver’s licences

Posted By on February 1, 2016 @ 12:30


Australia must enhance and standardise the security features of all territory and state driver’s licences, and improve the ease by which the authenticity and integrity of driver’s licences can be established by all end users. This is integral to Australia’s hopes of tackling the fraudulent manufacturing of driver’s licences, both as a crime in its own right, as well as a predicate offence that enables fraud, money laundering, drugs manufacturing, the trafficking weapons, people, and ultimately acts that threaten national security.

In September 2015, Minister for Justice Michael Keenan released the Identity Crime and Misuse in Australia 2013-14 report produced by the Attorney-General’s Department in collaboration with the Australian Institute of Criminology. Among the numerous findings reported was a telling comment that ‘[a]necdotal evidence from police and victims suggests that driver licences … continue to be the most likely identity credentials used in the facilitation of identity crime’.

The extent to which driver’s licenses are regularly referenced in identity crime media reports released by Australian police services, various governmental agencies and research published by the Australian Institute of Criminology, all of which play out across Australian media outlets suggests that driver’s licences are frequently compromised documents. Driver’s licences, as a central part of any 100 point identification check, secure access to a range of services—from banking and residential accommodation to obtaining firearms and ammunition. At the same time, they’re perhaps the most readily used form of photographic identification across Australia, providing almost uninhibited movement throughout the country. As such, outside of its obvious links to vehicular mobility, it’s the places a driver’s licence enables an individual to access that renders this issue a security threat. The opportunity provided to a motivated offender who can readily use an alias and a photograph of themselves as the basis for a fraudulently manufactured drivers licence creates corresponding challenges for those either requiring surety as to an individual’s identity, or those protecting personal, organisational or national interests.

The prevalence of fraudulently manufactured driver's licences creates an array of security risks for individuals, businesses and law enforcement agencies. The central problem is extent to which certain features are already compromised. State maps and emblem holograms manufactured in China continue to be seized by police services and customs officials. Multi-layered, chip-embedded PVC blank card stock is readily available online for purchase. High-end card printers are readily available for purchase online, as are magnetic credit card and Radio Frequency Identification reader/writers. Together, the ease of access to resources and materials needed to fraudulently manufacture driver’s licences and the extensive and growing body of deep web guidance surrounding identity manufacturing suggests this problem will become increasingly frequent and pervasive.

In Queensland ghost images, computer chips, holographic maps, security foils and facial image recognition software enabling a comparison of key facial features to others, all strive to make attempts at fraudulently reproducing Queensland licences more difficult. The Western Australian driver’s licence has similar security features: holographic 3-dimensional state emblems and facial recognition technology—however, it stops short of including computer chips. In New South Wales the driver’s licence doesn’t include facial recognition technology or computer chip technology. Instead, it relies on a simple range of watermarks, holograms and micro-text (the driver’s name being included in micro-font scale across the drivers picture), all of which have been repeatedly compromised accordingly to numerous media reports.

While the security features of these seemingly innocuous PVC cards vary significantly between Australia’s various states and territories, the influence and impact they have on individual, organisational and national security does not. Like many previous attempts to eradicate one form of criminality from a particular location, the attempts often result in crime displacement. Such is the challenge associated with controlling the manufacture of false identities. Unless all states and territories strive to counter this security risk, both in uniformity of developmental progress and technological security features, then the criminal enterprises that fraudulently manufacture driver’s licences will either adapt or simply move operations from one state to another.

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[1] Image: http://www.aspistrategist.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/3236574891_9d845d9d57_z.jpg

[2] Identity Crime and Misuse in Australia 2013-14: https://www.ag.gov.au/RightsAndProtections/IdentitySecurity/Pages/Trends-in-Identity-Crime.aspx

[3] identity crime media reports: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-28/man-charged-with-identity-theft-after-goulburn-traffic-stop/6733146

[4] governmental agencies: https://crimecommission.gov.au/publications/intelligence-products/crime-profile-fact-sheets/identity-crime

[5] Australian Institute of Criminology: http://www.aic.gov.au/crime_types/economic/idfraud.html

[6] China: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-26/identity-fraud-bust-sydney-afp-nsw-police/6263366

[7] deep web: http://www.cso.com.au/article/579375/seven-things-didn-t-know-about-deep-web/

[8] Queensland: http://www.tmr.qld.gov.au/Licensing/Queensland-new-cards/Security-features.aspx

[9] Western Australian: http://www.watoday.com.au/wa-news/scifi-drivers-licence-to-make-id-theft-harder-in-wa-20150525-gh9ebt.html

[10] New South Wales: http://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/roads/licence/nsw-photo-card.html

[11] media reports: http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/police-smash-international-identitytheft-ring-20150226-13pce7.html