The New High-Tech High-Security Solution: Paper
Imagine if the most secure element of your passport is the structure of the paper it is printed on. New research from a team at the University of Newcastle suggests this could be the case!
While governments around the world invest heavily in bio-metric technologies and highly advanced digital printing techniques, a security expert at the UK’s University of Newcastle has published findings that may transform the way we think about the security of paper documents.
Ehsan Toreini and his colleagues have developed a way to describe the individual complexities and random construction of a sheet of paper into a kind of digital “fingerprint”.
An unique origin
The way paper is constructed – from trees converted into pulp which is then washed and refined and beaten to a fine slush before being squeezed between rollers to create a sheet of paper – gives the construction of the finished product a uniqueness that can be used as an identifying pattern.
This element of Toreini’s research is not new; researchers at London’s Imperial College and the USA’s Princeton University demonstrated this in 2005 and 2009 work respectively. Their work demonstrated how the surface of paper is unique – and can be used as an identifier, rather like a fingerprint identifies a person.
What is new about Toreini’s research is the simplicity of the paper scanning process and the depth of analysis it makes possible. His work significantly improves the convenience and security of the paper fingerprint solution.
An improved scan
His technique begins by backlighting the paper, thereby making it possible to scan the entire depth of the paper, rather than just its surface. This makes the technique able to cope with the everyday wear and tear that could alter the paper’s surface and limits surface-only techniques. The greater depth of analysis also makes it harder – if not impossible – for a would-be fraudster to copy the paper’s unique fingerprint.
A standard digital camera captures an image of the paper. Gabor filters are then applied. The paper’s unique patterns are analysed and then represented in two long numbers. These numbers are effectively a mathematical description of the paper’s texture against which it can later be compared.
Toreini’s research opens up exciting possibilities to implement security checks without needing to bolt complicated security features onto existing paper products.