Driver’s License as “ID” at Critical Infrastructure?

Most people are who they say they are.  Just ask them and they will tell you.

The question is whether demanding a driver’s license to prevent false personation and identity fraud actually make us more safe from those attempting to deceive us?

It may be sufficient in some entities to accept a driver’s license as proof someone is who they say they are, especially where the consequences of a security breach are not all that threatening. But, this is not always the case, and no-more-so than with critical infrastructure where a security breach could have catastrophic consequences. This was precisely the case with the 911 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The original purpose of a driver’s license was to affirm the bearer is granted the privilege to operate a motor vehicle. Yet, buried deep in a defense appropriations bill, REAL ID of 2005 was enacted by the U.S. Congress to elevate the state-issued driver’s licenses to a de facto national ID card. Those of you who read our May 5, 2017 post know we limit the term “ID” to proof of status documents, which the driver’s license is not.

It is hard to argue with Bruce Schneier’s lament that this is a lousy security trade-off. Accepting a driver’s license as proof someone is who they say they are, is to accept the Department of Motor Vehicle’s Branch front line clerk was not duped when presented fraudulently acquired, counterfeit, forged, stolen or shared proof of status documents. This is not all that hard to according to the United States General Accounting Office field audits.

And, this is not to mention the challenges faced from the corruption of front line employees and their supervisors who don’t have all that much a stake when tempted to do bad things.

Here are some examples:

  • In March 2011 a Chattanooga grand jury returned a two count indictment against a State of Tennessee Department of Motor Vehicles employee for conspiring to unlawfully issue driver’s licenses.
  • Police arrested at least seven employees at the state license bureau in Delray Beach. They accepted bribes in exchange for putting drivers licenses in the hands of more than 1,500 persons who shouldn’t have them
  • A Texas Department of Public Safety employee is arrested in Houston as the result of an undercover sting operation for taking bribes and issuing driver’s licenses
  • A former Concord, New Hampshire Department of Motor Vehicles employee plead guilty to taking bribes.This employee is alleged to have exchanged up to 70 driver’s licenses for $500, without asking for proper documentation
  • A former Stevens Point, Wisconsin DMV employee was indicted for erroneously issuing driver’s licenses to about 70 people.  The employee allegedly accepted bribes in exchange for inputting false information into the DMV’s computer system

The driver’s license doesn’t replace requesting proof of status documents. But it is hugely complimentary when there are red flag indicators of deception noted from the nonverbal and verbal behavior of the presenter.

The driver’s license points the skilled interviewer to a biographical record of transactions between the record holder and the driver’s license issuer. A legitimate driver’s license record holder ought to be able to volunteer some of the details of these transactions without influence or prompting.

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