Secure Passport – The 7 keys

Secure Passport – The 7 keys

So much for the theory – What is a good passport design? And how is it achieved?

Here’s our seven-step guide to success.

#1 Combine and connect all the elements into a single strong document

Why does this matter?

It means that the document cannot be split apart, manipulated or the information tampered with, without leaving some easily visible marks.

#2 Define the right materials (parts), unique processes and product construction that will be used

The set of passport security features employed to protect a document should encompass diverse and special technologies, the use of rare materials, and processes that require in-depth expertise.

Passport design methodology

#3 Mix the artwork and security design as early as possible

So what’s the story here?

Passports and ID documents are also a showcase for the country issuing them. They should engender pride in the holder. It is important that the security of these documents is integrated closely with the artwork chosen by the customer, and leads to an aesthetically pleasing product.

Why is it important?

This approach will create a coherent and harmonious product. Carefully chosen colors and style should balance and, when different secure elements and repeated information are connected together, they should still be detectable and recognizable easily. It should also hide the information that is meant to be hidden, or put into the background.

But that’s not all.

Using the same design features among various documents, such as passports, ID cards, driving licenses and resident permits, will maximize the value and efficiency of training of officers to be able to authenticate the genuine document.

Passport design polycarbonate

#4 Protect the document and the citizen’s data

Always bear in mind that security is derived from the passport design and manufacture, as well as the personalization process.

We know that passport security features work best when combined and integrated into the document.

That’s why we advise duplication of personalization elements (usually the holder’s picture and the document number) within security features at different security levels.  We also recommend using different techniques to reproduce all of them.

#5 Remember “less is more”

Here’s something else to bear in mind.

Usability is key. The means of controlling authenticity is a very important factor to consider when defining a set of security features.

Passport security features that are too complex or expensive to be authenticated provide no additional protection.

As security documents are small in size, the number of Level 1security features shouldbe kept to a minimum. These are the elements that can be verified by a quick visual check. With just a few ‘eye catchers’ in place, the most important features can be recognized swiftly and easily.  

A “less is more” approach maximizes visibility and usability of the document. The aim is to make it complex in terms of the details, but simple for control officers.

And there’s more.

Documents with a high level of durability will survive the required validity period without significant visual change. They will therefore make more difficult targets for the fraudsters.

A high level of conformance between all genuine documents will also make copying and counterfeiting more difficult. That’s because the difference between a fake and a genuine passport will be easier to detect.

When finalizing a new design passport, remember that every manufacturing process has variation. The passport should therefore be designed in a way that minimizes the impact of these changes.

High security for passport and why paper still matters in 2018

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#6 There’s no magic bullet – you need to combine them

Sorry, but there’s no magic bullet.

A single feature can never provide all the security you’ll need. The real answer lies in choosing the right number of different elements. Then combining and connecting them together to create what we refer to as multifunctional features.

In other words…

…a passport combining several techniques will make the life of a counterfeiter truly frustrating.

On top of that, make sure there’s a trail to follow.

Detecting modification of the data in a passport can be simplified by using protection methods that make it easy to spot attempts at substitution. The key is to use technologies that are difficult to source and to copy, such as paper with a watermark and security thread, and inks sold only to registered printers. These will make it hard for the counterfeiter to pass the first line of inspection.

Here’s a good example.

MLI (multiple laser image) as a single/separate element and in a simple format is regarded as having lost its strength and security role. However, combine it with the rest of the passport security design and it’s a different story. In conjunction with offset printing, visible and invisible UV and positive relief features, and utilizing the latest advances in lamination plate technologies, MLI remains one of the most powerful visible (level1) document security features.

Take it from us. Polycarbonate is more secure.

We recommend the use of a polycarbonate data page. It’s more difficult to forge than a paper data page and offers a wider range of visual security features.

Welcome to the one-block concept.

All security features, including irreversible laser-engraved personalization information, are safely located and protected within the genuine polycarbonate datapage. This is referred to as the one-block concept.

Passport security features on datapage

A very good and most recent example is the new Finnish passport launched in January 2017.

Polycarbonate is unique in supporting highly fraud-resistant Level 1 security features; that is to say those visible to the naked eye. These features, which are authenticated easily by the relevant authorities, include tactile surface elements, changeable or multiple laser images (CLIs or MLIs), windows and irreversible laser-engraved personalization and now color portraits.

#7 Count on the electronic passport

We’ve said it before. But it’s worth repeating.

Never forget it’s called an ePassport for a reason. The microcontroller plays an important role in fraud protection. Even if the forger does manage to write data in the microcontroller, it will not be signed by the issuing authority’s certificate. Furthermore, the microcontroller in a blank passport is locked by a transport key that is known only by the passport manufacturer and the issuing authority.

How can we help you getting the most of passport security design?

At Gemalto, we believe in taking a comprehensive approach to security. That’s why we strive to provide secure, durable and innovative solutions.

As experts of both documents and related solutions, Gemalto strongly supports the ICAO TRIP (Traveler identification Program) initiative and shares the vision that there must be a global fight against fraud by securing all the links in the security chain.

We offer extensive experience and support, enabling our customers to meet their expectations for distinctive documents that are as secure as they are attractive.

We’re proud to have succeeded in designing some of the most secure and attractive passports, IDs and driver licenses to appear in recent years.

Collaboration with customers lies at the heart of our process. We help them to deliver unique travel documents that become works of art and symbols of pride in the hands of millions.

Passport security design

Now it’s your turn

What do you think?

If you’ve something to say on passport security design, a question to ask, or have simply found this article useful, please leave a comment in the box below. We’d also welcome any suggestions on how it could be improved, or proposals for future articles.

We look forward to hearing from you.


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