#Identity Technology

Securing identity documents with window features

5 Mins.

A photo ID is more than just a document; it is a symbol of our identity and a ticket to many of life’s essential freedoms and opportunities – both literally and figuratively.

With a passport or ID card, individuals can cross borders, exercise their right to vote, drive motorized vehicles, and more. Without proper identification, even basic tasks like opening a bank account or securing employment become challenging. Modern identity documents contain numerous complex security features, including laser engraving, holographic threads, biometric data, and many more. However, one of the most important features, is a 35mm x 45mm photograph of the holder.

The evolution of identity documents

In earlier times, long before today’s high-tech documents had been invented, individuals had to depend on trust, personal recognition, and written descriptions of physical appearance to prove their identity. Naturally, these early methods were easily manipulated and posed a high risk of fraud.

The invention of photography in 1876 opened up new opportunities for the identity industry. It wasn’t long before the use of photographs became standard practice in all forms of identification.

Almost 150 years on, the photograph remains a central component of these documents, but it is also one of the most frequently targeted features by counterfeiter.1 Every year, millions of people fall victim to identity theft crimes, resulting in devastating financial consequences. As long as physical documents remain a vital form of identification, they will be a target for fraudsters. To counter these threats, it is critical for the identity industry to keep pace with the latest security requirements and technological developments.

A smiling man and woman check in for their flight while an airport attendant passes the woman her passport and boarding pass.
Portrait images of the holder: a central yet frequently targeted element on an identity document.

One way the industry can do this is by incorporating window protection features – or transparent windows – which have become an industry standard in recent years. These windows feature an engraved duplicate of the document’s photo in a reduced contrast, size, or intensity, known as a “ghost image.” The ghost image complements the primary portrait of the holder and provides a second source of information to verify the integrity of the document. This additional security measure increases the level of complexity and protection, without compromising on easy verification – an important factor.

“When we develop new security features, we have to keep two things in mind,” says Faten Ben Jemaa, Global Vice President and Head of Business Line ID Documents at Veridos. “On the one hand, we want to stay one step ahead of counterfeiters with innovative solutions. On the other hand, we know that there are more and more cases where even laymen need to verify documents. That is why we give equal priority to making it easy and fast to verify documents.”

As a leading identity solutions provider, Veridos has developed three window protection solutions – Spectre ID, Amber ID, and Diamond ID – that go beyond current standards, combining innovative features with sophisticated security requirements.

Here are the key benefits of window protection features and their importance in modern identity documents:

  1. Difficult to forge

    The more complex the security features, the more difficult it is to forge or counterfeit documents. Spectre ID and Amber ID are two examples of advanced security solutions that can be incorporated into transparent windows. Spectre ID combines two different lens structures to create a motion effect of the document’s ghost image whenever the card is tilted, whereas Amber ID integrates optically variable inks (OVIs) into the window feature, changing the color and transparency depending on the viewing angle or light source. Because these features are incorporated into the window, rather than printed on, they are almost impossible to forge. Indeed, any attempt to tamper with these features will disarm the functionality and expose the attempted deception.

  2. Versatility

    While all window protection features excel individually, they can be combined with other features to further enhance security, while still providing the flexibility to meet specific security requirements. This is important because as security features continue to evolve, so do the methods of professional forgers and counterfeiters.

    For example, Spectre ID can be combined with Diamond ID to intensify the motion effect with an integrated pigment that is only visible under UV light. This not only strengthens the document’s anti-counterfeiting capabilities, but it also makes it more visually appealing.

  3. Durability

    Identity documents are typically valid for 10 years, so it’s important that they are built to last. Polycarbonate material has become the standard bearer in identity cards in recent, because it of its resistance to the impacts of wear and tear and, more importantly, forgery and tampering.

    Polycarbonate IDs are made up of multiple layers fused together under high pressure and heat, which makes them particularly well suited for storing multiple security features. This structure makes it virtually impossible to alter the data stored on them without leaving visible signs of tampering. This ensures that the complex lens structures and pigments stored in the window features are preserved for the lifespan of the document.

  4. Customization

    It’s not just the security elements of window features that can be customized to meet individual requirements – certain design elements can also be personalized. Custom images, such as an animal, or symbols, such as a coat of arms, can be layered onto ghost images to make the document uniquely identifiable to the country or issuing authority.

    This Spectre ID feature is especially impressive when combined with Diamond ID, as it enhances the ghost image with a bright and shiny appearance when viewed under UV light.

  5. Ease of verification

    For border control officers who deal with thousands of travelers each day, it’s crucial that documents can be verified in a matter of seconds. But these personnel typically have the benefit of advanced machine readers to verify the validity of the document.

    The real strength of window features lies in their ability to demonstrate authenticity without the need for such equipment. This is especially beneficial to bank, post office, and online identify verification staff who don’t typically have access to such equipment. All they need to do to verify the authenticity of a document is tilt it from side to side or hold it up against the light to see the embedded security features.

“There are more and more cases where even laymen need to verify documents. That is why we give equal priority to making it easy and fast to verify documents.“
Faten Ben Jemaa
Global Vice President, Head of Business Line ID Documents at Veridos

While it’s never easy to predict the trajectory of technological advancements, one thing is certain: as long as holder portraits remain central to identity documents, the importance of safeguarding them with sophisticated security features, such as the window protection features from Veridos, will be paramount. Furthermore, it’s crucial to strike the right balance between achieving high-end innovation and ensuring that documents remain easily verifiable for everyday use.

Key takeaways

  • Photos remain a central component of identification documents – but are one of the features most targeted by criminals.
  • Incorporating additional window protection features enhances the security of identification documents, without compromising on ease of verification.
  • The more complex the security features, the harder it is to forge the documents.
  1. Identity Fraud Report 2023, Onfido, 2023

Published: 09/11/2023

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