Panel: Airport Security Program Places New Emphasis On Stronger Identity Verification

An airport security program under way at Baltimore's Thurgood Marshall International Airport  “has put a new emphasis on the need for greater use in airports of stronger identity verification technology,” according to Paul Onorato, president of the Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations.

Onorato made his remarks at a recent Airports Council International-North America panel discussion on airport security.

“Positive identification of anyone with access to the cockpit is essential and that’s why CAPA is pleased with the success, thus far, of the BWI SecureScreen program,” Onorato said.

SecureScreen is a joint effort of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Southwest Airlines, Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association (SWAPA), CAPA and Priva Technologies with support from BWI and the Maryland Aviation Administration.

Priva’s Cleared ID authentication technology is at the heart of the SecureScreen system. It uses a security platform that was developed by Priva specifically for access control and employs biometrics.

“But, the platform goes beyond biometrics by creating an integrated trust system specifically designed to enhance security, maintain privacy and protect against systemic fraud and intrusion,” said Charles Chambers, an airport security expert and a Priva executive vice president who participated in the ACI panel discussion.

Chambers said eliance solely on biometric identification can actually weaken security instead of strengthening it.

“There is a lot of authoritative literature about how off the shelf biometric systems do not provide sufficient proof of an individual’s identity and how they can be spoofed,” he said.

Priva’s system utilizes the only commercially-available, biometrically-enabled microchip with the government's FIPS 140-2 Level 3 certification, one of the highest security ratings the federal government can award, he notes.

“It was designed by our engineers to provide industrial strength protection against intrusion,” Chambers said.

The first participants in the SecureScreen program were 200 Southwest Airlines pilots who went through a quick enrollment process, which stored their fingerprints, photograph and other protected security information on what is called a ClearedKey.

It’s a token with a USB interface. The ClearedKey data can only be accessed by TSA at a security checkpoint, where the ClearedKey reader verifies the pilot’s fingerprint and also provides an additional layer of security by showing the TSA agent the pilot’s photograph. After positive identification, TSA clears the pilot to proceed into the secure area to report for flight duty.

“The screening takes only a few seconds but it offers robust access control because it provides not only biometric identification of users, but an additional three different ID verification factors including the user’s photo and the confirmation of the authenticity of the ClearedKey and the ClearedKey reader. In addition, the platform protects the privacy of the personal information provided by users and is designed to foil spoofing,” Chambers said.

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