TWIC Program Intermittently Fails Credential Authorization
BetaNews reports that the director of credentialing technology for U.S. government contractor Lockheed Martin, Jon Rambeau, told attendees at the 2007 U.S. Maritime Security Expo that fingerprint biometric security systems currently used in the Transportation Security Administration’s Transport Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program fail to properly authorize enrollees’ credentials 2 percent of the time.
The TWIC program issues tamper-resistant smart cards to personnel who work in maritime facilities and on maritime vessels (“mariners”), giving them unescorted access to those areas with auditable, secure authentication. Identifying data on the smart card is matched against fingerprint data assessed at the time the card is read.
Rambeau’s admission was that the systems currently in use fail to match fingerprint data to smart card data one time in 50 reads. The moderator of the conference, TWIC program director Maurine Fangey, responded to Rambeau’s admission by saying her group is willing to consider alternative biometric systems, but the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would have to first meet with the National Institute of Science and Technology to determine what new systems they could deploy that could utilize data that is backwards-compatible with the database TWIC currently uses.
The TWIC system only began enrollments in Wilmington, Del., six weeks ago. BetaNews reports that on Oct. 30, Fangey reported to a Congressional committee that testing of the system had already been completed and that all selected components, including the biometric system, had passed.
“TWIC will be one of the world’s most advanced, interoperable biometric credentialing programs,” Fangey told the House Homeland Security Committee, “and is powered by state-of-the-art technologies.”
“We have completed our ‘flight test’ of the full TWIC system,” she continued, one of whose five components “captures a worker’s biometric and biographic information and submits the information for security processing…After our contractor verified system readiness, TSA completed independent verification before beginning final test enrollments in the field using live vetting on government and trusted contractor personnel.”
In Fangey’s written testimony, submitted to Congress, she stated that one of her program’s goals is to “place the highest value in stakeholder input; it is time well spent.”