The world of biometric security managed to get all shook up when a couple of “ethical hackers” managed to get through Amsterdam airport’s border patrol with a passport under the name of Elvis Presley, complete with the hip-shaker’s picture.
Slipping the doctored document through an automated passport scanner the Double Trouble duo managed to pull the wool over Schiphol airport’s security using a fake biometric chip.
Adam Laurie and Jeroen Van Beek say they do what they do in order to expose security flaws in order to push governments to fix them, before International passport faking scams can occur. Oh, ooops, cough, Dubai.
Van Beek told CNN that making the faked chip was not just easy, but cheap too, costing less than $100 in "off the shelf equipment."
"What we did for that chip is create passport content for Elvis Presley and put it on a chip and sign it with our own key for a non-existent country. And a device that was used to read chips didn't check the country's signatures."
Indeed, the most difficult part of the whole operation was apparently getting the fake passport itself, which has to be acquired on the black market from a professional forger, said Laurie.
Suspicious minds may wonder how it’s possible for the long dead King of Rock to sneak passed border control simply because a machine wasn’t able to detect the fake country code used on the passport chip, but Laurie says it’s a prevalent and basic flaw.
Because every country has its own digital security signature for biometric passports and most countries refuse to share that information with other countries, making it a tad difficult for states to know whether any country code other than their own is valid or not.
So, all your fingerprint scans, retina scans, face measurement data is basically rendered useless because countries can’t or won’t share to make their borders more secure. Fools rush in, indeed.
"If you want to make the system more secure then all countries need to have access to a list of all certificates of all countries all over the world,” said Van Beek, adding "in the current state, I think they've actually made the borders weaker, not stronger."
Not everyone agrees with that assessment though, with Britain’s home office telling CNN pompously that it believed its biometric passports to be the most secure in the world.
"We remain confident that the British passport is one of the most secure documents of its kind - fully meeting rigorous international standards," said a Home Office spokesperson.
Yes, well, again, we won’t mention the recent Dubai incident then, Britain.
Bridges over troubled waters indeed.