Wednesday, October 25, 2017

6 states to test digital driver’s licenses in 2018

Prototype photo of an Iowa mobile drivers license mDL on a smartphone
Photo credit: IDEMIA

Six states will be testing the viability of digital (DDL) or mobile (mDL) driver’s licenses in 2018, led by the state of Iowa. Iowa has been pilot testing for a few years; mDLs and the technology to read them should available statewide next year. State officials hope the new technology will enhance safety for residents and law enforcement, achieve operational and cost efficiencies, and with good results, lead the way to widespread adoption.

Iowa's pilot testing started in 2015 and 2016 with a solution developed by IDEMIA. The security of the system will be protected by high level encryption, including facial recognition. Police officers can send a request for an mDL from a smartphone or a laptop in their vehicle to the subject’s smart phone. While system is rolling out in 2018, it is still considered under development.

Recognizing that driver’s licenses are used most often for identification outside of a vehicle, two states, Alabama and Arizona have partnered with IDEMIA to develop a more general electronic identity (eID) for identification, whether a person is a driver or not. Alabama is testing using an eID to secure state tax returns. Arizona is working on an online portal to give residents electronic access to vehicle title and ownership services, as well as driving knowledge tests.

Four states – Colorado, Idaho, Maryland and Wyoming – and Washington DC are testing a pilot smartphone-based DDL system based on digital security technology from Gemalto. Phase 1 testing is underway this year. Phase 2 testing begins in 2018. Other uses being considered for DDL ID include buying alcohol, purchasing lottery tickets, retail shopping and clearing airport security.

While other states are sure to join in DDL/mDL testing, paper and plastic driver’s licenses will be still around for many years to come. However, the convenience of using a smartphone for purchases and ID is already widely supported by smartphone users. It’s most likely a question of when, and not if this technology will be accepted. Similar trials are also taking place worldwide, from Europe to Asia to the South African development community.

By Theo Douglas, Oct. 20, 2017, for Government Technology online (

Friday, October 20, 2017

How a convicted murderer slipped past group home background checks

Cropped photo of a criminal background check form

In New Jersey, nearly 8% of workers hired to care for the developmentally disabled evaded a state law requiring they undergo a criminal background check. Some applicants who were flagged with a criminal record got hired anyway.

New Jersey state law leaves the hiring decisions up to the group home or supervised housing provider, who can decide if an applicant has demonstrated “clear and convincing evidence of… rehabilitation.” This practice allowed one housing provider to hire a paroled convicted murderer. When auditors pointed out the worker’s criminal record, the employer called it an “oversight” and fired the worker. 

A recent report submitted by State Auditor Stephen M. Eells and Asst. Auditor John Termyna says that legislative changes may be needed. 

Among the report findings, 

  • 175 of 2,340 employees (7.5%) did not have a record of a background check in their file
  • Of 47,700 workers in group homes, supervised apartments and community care facilites, 4,087 (8.5%) had committed a state crime. 
  • In a random check of the files of 147 active employees, 19 were found to have criminal histories that could be disqualifying, including drug and assault offenses. 40 of the files didn’t contain enough information to make a determination.
  • In a review of Federal background checks, 72 of 53,200 had a serious disqualifying offense such as armed robbery or murder. One of the 72 was the convicted murderer hired as an oversight, above. 

People with developmental disabilities may rely on staff for everything from basic care – help with feeding, dressing and bathing – to transportation to and back from jobs and social programs. The pay is low and the turnover is high. Advocacy groups have made it a goal to have the starting wage raised to attract more qualified workers.

The report from the State Auditor’s Office states that better monitoring of residential programs is needed to prevent employment of workers with disqualifying criminal background histories. It’s important that state and federal background checks to be done on those who work with disabled individuals, and that the residential programs are in compliance with the handling of background checks when hiring employees.

How a convicted murderer (and others) slipped past group home background checks

By Susan K. Livio, posted on Oct. 18, 2017,

Report: Department of Human Services Licensed Residential Programs Serving Individuals with Developmental Disabilities

New Jersey State Legislature Office of Legislative Services Office of the State Auditor,
July 1, 2012 to April 30, 2017

Thursday, October 12, 2017

New fingerprint test reveals surprising details

Photo of mass spectrometry fingerprint test
Photo Credit: BBC News

A new fingerprint test using mass spectrometry can detect a wealth of surprising new information from a fingerprint, including...

  • The sex of the person that left the print
  • What food or drink they may have consumed
  • Whether they’ve taken drugs
  • Whether they’ve touched blood
  • Whether they’ve touched cleaning products or cosmetics
  • Whether they’ve touched a condom – and even what brand

Your fingerprint contains molecules from your body and molecules from what you’ve touched. In mass spectrometry, a sample from a fingerprint is vaporized and fired through electric and magnetic fields. The particles of different mass react differently. The results are compared to known substances, and the team is able to identify the molecules within the print.  

This technology has been able to detect blood in 30 year old fingerprints which means it could be valuable in helping to solve cold cases. The research by teams from Sheffield Hallam University working with the West Yorkshire, UK Police has been ongoing since 2012. The new testing is expensive, but is expected to start being used in high profile cases within months.

October 10, 2017 published by BBC News | Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Thursday, October 5, 2017

US reviewing alternate solutions to using Social Security Number as ID

Photo of old Social Security cards

Photo credit: zimmytws/Bigstock

Rob Joyce, White House cybersecurity coordinator, has confirmed recently that the White House administration is consulting with officials from outside agencies to work out a better system for identifying Americans. The recent breach at Equifax, one of the nation’s top 3 firms collecting data for credit card applications, underscores the need for change.

When the Social Security Number system was created by the Social Security Administration in 1936, it was intended solely for keeping track of individual earnings. Due to convenience, SSNs were quickly adopted by the private sector. Now they’re used for everything from loans and purchases, to marriage licenses, job applications, medical forms and more. They are so widely distributed, they can hardly be considered private, and are highly susceptible to hacking.

Social Security Numbers are not hard for a determined hacker to decode. The first 3 digits are a geographical code for the area you lived when you registered. Your birth date is also used when creating your number. If there’s one piece of information that is more widely distributed than your SSN, it’s your birthday. With your location and birthday, your SSN becomes relatively easy to figure out.

Social Security numbers are difficult to get replaced. To replace it you would have to show proof of continued harassment, and have documentation to prove your identity You can’t have it changed just as a precaution. Actual biometric scan data also can’t be changed. Many are concerned that this information could also be stolen from the agency storing it.

So what’s the best solution? Rob Joyce told a forum at the Washington Post that the administration is considering “modern cryptographic identifiers.” This may involve “a public and private key,” and the ability to get a new identifier if one has been compromised. In addition, we may end up having more than one identifier, specific customer ID’s for different purposes, which would allow Americans more control over their data.

By AFP on Oct. 03, 2017, Security Week

By Hayley Tsukayama, Sept. 20, 2017, The Washington Post