The Driver’s License Design Starter Kit: How to Conduct a Threat Assessment

Last updated: 23 February 2018

If you see one, you do a double take. It’s hard not to. With their modern, sporty, and sleek design, Tesla is changing the car game. How did we get here though- to a dual motor, “falcon winged” doors, air filtering, auto-parking car? We got here because Malcolm Smith and Martin Eberhard wanted to engineer a product that would have a positive, direct impact on the environment, driver safety, and driver utility.

Successful product design, like the Tesla, is a very real example of the old saying coined by Louis Sullivan: “form follows function.” The evolution of the car, “something that gets us from point A to point B” to “something that supports clean energy production for our future,” is not a dissimilar process to the evolution of the driver’s license. The approach to designing an equally secure and attractive driver’s license, qualities widely recognized in a Tesla, should be no different than that of Smith and Eberhard. As the function evolves, so does the form.

The strength of your DL/ID lies in its ability to protect against potential security threats, which is why it is critical to assess your credentials against the DL landscape through conducting a threat assessment. A successful threat assessment will serve as your guide through the rest of the design process.

Follow this step-by-step guide for conducting a threat assessment:

  • Assess your current substrate against present-day and future threats

Assess your current substrate’s strength against AAMVA’s 3 categories of threats: counterfeiting, falsification, and misuse of a genuine document. What trends are you finding in your jurisdiction?

Every identity document is susceptible to fraud because fraudsters will always try. The goal is to make it as difficult and expensive as possible to minimize the attempts and to be able to quickly and clearly identify the attempt as fraudulent. The consequences of the sophistication of modern counterfeit documents means that jurisdictions need to select substrates that are produced with tools and materials not readily available to the public. Fight technology with technology. Also, consider your substrate’s ability to house features that cannot be replicated without highly sophisticated technology.

Remember, the durability of your selected substrate is key. If your substrate is susceptible to delamination, chips, tearing, etc., it makes you vulnerable to attacks. The best way to avoid this is to choose a document that is not laminated and that has a tamper-evident body.

  • Assess your current security features against present-day and future threats

A deeper analysis of state-specific trends will give insight on where vulnerabilities stem from.

The sophistication of modern counterfeit security features extends from holograms and REAL ID symbols, to scannable barcodes, or even simulated level 2 features embedded inside the plastic of the card. Combat this by starting with your level 1 security features. Clearly identifiable level 1 security features are imperative to designing a secure card. Why? This will increase ease of authentication and effective widespread recognition of your state’s credential.

Make sure that your features are also resistant to tampering. If you have not chosen a substrate with a tamper-evident body, then it is important to choose features that will resist any tampering attempts or clearly show evidence after the attack.

  • Look to your neighbors in order to educate yourself on the challenges and successes that those around you are facing

Identify the trends within other jurisdictions in order to glean insight on what threats are to come and what “tried and tested” solutions could work for you.

Let’s look at Maryland, a state that recently redesigned their DL/ID cards. An article released by Maryland DOT discusses new security features, like laser engraving, a feature incorporated to give them maximum protection against forgery. Learning about Maryland’s new credential will give insight on their present and anticipated threats.

For more information about Maryland’s new credential, including video footage and card images, click here.

  • Consult the experts for up to date “inside knowledge”

There are many kinds of experts. Some enter secret or illegal chatrooms, monitoring activity, getting firsthand information about what’s to come. Other experts come from the retail community or law enforcement community. Contacting the local FBI or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police offices is also a great way to get information on threats that the country is facing as a whole.

From the first “photo-less” driver’s license issued on paper to the new digital driver’s license technology, or from the first gasoline-engine automobile, to an “auto-parking” Tesla, products have evolved to serve the increasing demands of the day and age, brought on by sophistications in technology, education, experience, and user impact alike.  A successful DL/ID design does hinge on the old saying, “form following function,” and defining the function of your card is the first and most important step.

Stay tuned for the next step in the card redesign process, which will give you the tools for choosing the right substrate for your jurisdiction. Also, for more information about our driver’s license offering, check out our website.

Have any tips for DL/ID redesign? Please comment below.