The Aliens and Borders Service (SEF) hosted on May the 10th the trials of interoperability of the advanced security devices and electronic data protection contained in the next generation of Passports, performed by various European Countries within the ambit of Group BIG (Brussels Interoperability Group) of the European Commission.
Such trials aim at guaranteeing that by 2009 all European Countries will be in position to issue and validate a second generation of Electronic Passports which include an advanced control device, giving access to the holders data, electronically stored in the integrated circuit (chip) of the Passport, in accordance to directives of the European Commission. The Extended Access Control – EAC will make it possible to store the finger print in the integrated circuit of the Passport by restraining its access solely to endorsed authorities by means of powerful security devices.
The Aliens and Borders Service underlines the fact that Portugal is getting prepared, jointly with other European Union members, for the adoption of the EAC - a fundamental device of the second generation of Electronic Passports - and which will lead to an enhancement of security across borders and, by consequence, the security of the Portuguese territory and of the European Space.
Portugal will be part of the group of first Countries to adopt this new device which represents a new step in the direction of security reinforcement of PEP as, with the current Electronic Passport, the Portuguese already possess an extremely safe document which meets the highest demands on data protection and guarantees maximum protection against forgery and inadequate use of the contained data.
Since 28 August 2006 when the Aliens and Borders Service (SEF) made the new Portuguese Electronic Passport available, it contains a digital photograph and incorporates the holders’ personal data in the chip, all duly protected by an electronic signature. The personalisation of the new passport is created in a centralised manner at the premises of the National Bureau of Money Printing and Engraving (Imprensa Nacional Casa da Moeda - INCM) that is equally in charge of distributing it.
At this BIG meeting, SEF with the support of INCM and MULTICERT has performed a simulation of the production process for the future version of PEP with Extended Access Control facilities, and exhibited the future system of border control for Electronic Passport of second generation. Portugal’s participation in the interoperability tests represents a guarantee that this Country may be present on the first line of manufacturing one of the most technologically advanced and safe passports, as it is currently accepted by the EU Countries and by the international organizations.
MULTICERT is a partner to SEF and INCM from the early stages of the project PEP, providing the safety devices for the passport’s integrated circuits and for the information contained on them. It implemented and makes available a safety infra-structure service (PKI and Basic Access Control –BAC) for the existing PEP, and is currently making interoperability tests with the safety infra- structure solution (PKI and EAC) which will be used at a latter stage on the new generation of PEP. This national company, which is one of the few within the area of Security and Information Technology that provides this type of service, has also been present at the BIG meetings.
BAC (Basic Access Control), which is already encompassed in the new Portuguese Electronic Passport, ensures that the data stored in the integrated circuit of the passport (such as the digital photograph, name and other information) can only be viewed in result of implicit authorization of the respective holder.
The new Enlarged Access Control (EAC) to be inserted in the new generation of Electronic Passports, jointly with BAC, meets the most advanced requirements on electronic data protection needed for storing other personal data of the holder in the integrated circuit (for example the finger print), which will allow a quicker and safer border crossing
EAC guarantees the protection of the holder’s electronic data through coded cryptographic mechanisms, reported by the best national and international experts as being utterly secure and robust. Such mechanisms make it possible to restrain the access to the stored electronic data only to police forces and other authorities which have been granted a specific endorsement by the Passport’s issuing State, whereby such endorsement is validated by the integrated circuit of the document.
BAC and EAC are mechanisms that have been developed in recent years following an initiative of ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) with the target of giving a positive response to the ever growing need of an ever growing number of travellers in crossing borders in a more expeditious and consequently safer manner. Portugal is among the reduced number of Countries that, both in terms of travelling credentials such as the Passport and in terms of automatic border crossings (project RAPID), has implemented technologically advanced, innovated and secure responses.
The BIG meeting took place in Lisbon this week, with the attendance of various European Countries. The results of the interoperability trials performed represent an important step in the direction of the next generation of Passports, encompassing safety devices even more advanced.
Lisbon, 11 May 2007