Smart ID cards to combat fraud and identity theft launched

Minister of Home Affairs Naledi Pandor announced last week that 100 000 South Africans will have smart ID cards by 31 March.

January 28, 2014

Minister of Home Affairs Naledi Pandor announced last week that 100 000 South Africans will have smart ID cards by 31 March. She further announced that another 25 Home Affairs offices have been digitised, in addition to the three used during the smart ID card pilot project.

Digitised Home Affairs departments will be issuing smart ID cards from 1 February through an entirely paperless process. Biometric information is captured during the application process, and applicants must show up in person to apply – thus ensuring that only legal citizens are issued with documents and assisting in updating the National Population Register.

The new smart ID cards being rolled out by the Department will bring new levels of security to South African identity documentation. The cards are secured using PKI digital certificates, and the chip in each contains sufficient space to allow for the storage of identity information, drivers license details, and other information relevant to state services. The secure cards will ensure that citizens can vote securely (and eliminate election fraud), and help protect social grants.

Each South African will, once issued with a smart ID card, have a secure, verifiable, digital identity. This will assist in the reduction of identity theft and marriage fraud, and allow service providers like banks to authenticate people using the biometric (face and fingerprint) details embedded securely in the card when they sign up new customers or transact with existing ones.

The security technology behind the cards has been provided by local security solutions specialist, LAWtrust, which will work with the Department, delivering security services, for the duration of the project.

LAWtrust has provided Home Affairs with a PKI platform that uses both RSA- and ECC-based certificates. Cards are printed at the government printing works, which has in turn upgraded its systems in order to securely print the new identity cards.

Says LAWtrust solutions director Maeson Maherry: “LAWtrust is the security integrator for the Department of Home Affairs smart ID card solution and is providing the encryption technology, digital certificates and key management systems that form a part of securing the ID card.

“The real excitement here is that identity can be electronically verified in future. South Africans will have a digital identity that cannot be forged, cannot be tampered with and can be used to verify that you are who you say you are not just by Home Affairs, but by any system that relies on identity – FICA processes, opening and closing accounts and so on,” Maherry states.