A leap in technology: fusion authentication



Jay Grant, Secretary General, International Association of Airport and Seaport Police – InterPortPolice, San Pedro, CA, US



Every day, all over the world, we strive to identify people to ensure we know who they really are in order to meet required safety and security protocols. Over the years, there has been an evolution of identification and trust factors that today has resulted in the use of smart cards with biometrics and other security features. While we have begun to minimize the risks, we have not been able to create a comprehensive system. For the transportation and border environments, this leap is essential.

The greatest challenge for any system is adoption and cost. Integration of a biometric authentication program must be comprehensive and flexible for effective use in the access control environment. One common challenge has been effectively integrating smart credentials on a universal basis. An ideal solution would not burden the user; is easy to manage; is cost effective; maintains the highest security requirements, and provides permission based access and global interoperability to applicable users, such as employees, law enforcement officials, other first responders, visitors and guests. To satisfy today’s security demands, we require a new level of absolute authentication and access assurance, as well as a seamless entry system that is integrated into the normal flow process.

Physical security has long had a site-specific silo based approach. The administrative, security and usability challenges that arise from this are directly proportional to the number of physical sites an organization maintains. Our transportation system represents a worst case scenario. There are large numbers of employees and passengers using multiple entry sites with no central control over identification and little to no interoperability. In addition, the tragic events of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina in the US illustrate such a system’s weakness when qualified first responders are denied access due to the inability of responsible agencies to validate credentials.

The world truly has gotten smaller. We interact globally on several levels, from commercial traveling to issues of crime and commerce. Often, though, we still find ourselves building solutions locally rather than globally. Identity management still plagues us and document fraud is a daily and persistant challenge. Ensuring who people really are within our borders, aviation, maritime and transport environments has been a difficult task. We have seen hundreds of millions of dollars spent on single programs. It is projected that biometric smart card credential programs will cost over $40 billion to implement and $3.5 billion to maintain, just in the US.


Government lead programs often come down to two key components: budgets and politics. Money for national governments has not initially been too much of a problem. However, the programs touted a few years ago are on the chopping block today. In some cases, security is coming in second place to other priorities. Policy is always tricky, especially when you have national government and local communities who must work together on federated issues. When we work internationally, the bar is set higher and compromise is an art. Transportation and border security are local issues, yet require a new spectrum of international thinking. Retail manufacturers learned hard lessons that cost millions by not working together to agree on international standards before manufacturing the latest and greatest technology.

In today’s environment, international standards should be a high consideration from the outset. In the case of credentials for transportation security, we look to the United Nation’s International Aviation Organization (ICAO) and International Maritime Organization (IMO). Criminals have no borders and professional passenger expectations are high. We find maritime crews stranded on ships within many countries, not being able to get off their ships because we just cannot verify the identity of the individual.

I am not a technician, but have spent five years learning about identity technology. This is because I have found good intelligence and identity management provide the best ways to prevent terrorism and transnational crime. Much of my career has been spent working on legislation and regulation with policymakers. As Director of the US Port Security Council, working for the American Port Authorities after 9/11, my quest was to ensure security funding was achieved through the US Congress – we pushed and accomplished, receiving over $2 billion of funding for our seaport security programs in 2006. That funding requirement is up for reauthorization in 2013 and it will be difficult to achieve the same success. Part of that funding was for the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC), a maritime security credential. Almost two million credentials have been issued, but the TWIC card, to date, is not much more than a flash pass and considered the most falsified national document. Trying to implement a centralized reader program that signals either a valid or not valid credential of an individual has been a chore beyond belief. The mistakes of the program goes back to a lack of standards and hurried implementation.


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