A PIV card is a government-issued smart card used by federal employees and contractors to access government facilities and computer networks. The PIV card carries a photo, fingerprint information, personal identification number (PIN) and a cryptographic credential–random computer-generated data that are recognized only by the PIV card–all of which serve to bind the card to the card holder.
To assist agencies seeking stronger security and greater operational flexibility, NIST [ed. National Institute of Standards & Technology] made several modifications to the previous version of Biometric Data Specification for Personal Identity Verification. Major additions include:
On-card comparison of fingerprints for improved privacy. The specifications describe how to place one or two compact fingerprint templates and a recognition algorithm on the card. When the user wants to sign a document digitally or open a secure file, for example, she can place her finger on a reader attached to the keyboard to verify her identity. Currently, employees have to type in a PIN for matching, which is subject to error and misuse.
Iris recognition capability for increased security. Standardized compact images of one or both irises (the images are no more than 3 kilobytes each) can be loaded on the PIV card for compact on-card storage and fast reading times. The document provides performance specifications for iris biometrics to assure high accuracy and provides specifications for iris cameras to guide implementers on camera selection. These standards-based elements support interoperability within and across agencies using iris recognition technology.
Agencies may choose to add iris images as an alternate biometric over fingerprints, because, for some users, fingerprint collection can be difficult. At times, the fingerprints are too dry to yield a good image, and lotions, wounds or illness also can make for poor images. Agencies now have the option of using two biometric sources to avoid such circumstances.
Several recent NIST research projects have led to improved technologies for identity management that are included in the updated specification.
The full publication is available from NIST here.
See also: Iris ID tech is ready, but agencies might not be at Deep Dive Intel.