Security of Enhanced Driver’s Licenses Questioned

By Matthew Harwood

Civil liberty activists and computer security experts are questioning the soundness of the government’s proposed enhanced driver’s licenses, reports the Associated Press in a dispatch from Vermont.

[T]he radio frequency identification chips to be used in them were designed to monitor shipments of cargo, not people, critics say.

The cards transmit a signal containing a unique identification number of the license holder up to 30 feet, and can be read by commercially available equipment

"If you were standing in a supermarket and 50 people had Vermont drivers' licenses with the border-crossing technology in it, you could wave a reader in the middle of the room and pickup a whole bunch of numbers," said Randy Vanderhoff, executive director of the Smart Card Alliance, a trade group pushing for what he says is an alternative, more secure technology already in use in U.S. passports.

The cards were designed for easy convenience to ensure a speedy experience crossing the United States’ northern border with Canada says the Department of Homeland Security. When drivers approach a Customs and Border Protection agent, the RFID technology would allow the agent to retrieve the information—the driver’s photo and personal information—from the enhanced license.

To pacify critics and those sensitive to privacy issues, DHS is planning on issuing the licenses with a special protective sleeve that would block the ability of a third party to retrieve the information without the holder’s consent. When approaching a border checkpoint, drivers would remove the ID from the sleeve to allow the CBP agent to retrieve their photo and personal information for crossing from the RFID chip in their license.

Critics, such as Vanderhoff, want the IDs to use technology already used in U.S. passports because the cards need to be placed within inches of a reader while the data retrieved is encrypted. 

To read the Smart Card Alliance's new white paper stating their issues and concerns with incorporating RFID technology into the goverment's new enhanced driver's licenses, click here.


View Recent News (by day)


Beyond Print

SM Online

See all the latest links and resources that supplement the current issue of Security Management magazine.