EU cyber security agency calls for electronic ID cards

27 Nov 2009

Europe’s cyber security agency ENISA (the European Network and Information Security Agency) has concluded that electronic ID (eID) cards offer the most secure and reliable method of authentication for internet services like online banking.

The agency has proposed the widespread introduction of a privacy-protecting universally applicable eID card which it says is technologically feasible.

Major European eID interoperability projects, such as STORK and its successor ELSA are aiming at a European-wide take-up of new technologies.

Online banking security

Online banking is one of the most widely-used electronic services by European consumers. However, online banking fraud is on the rise. Security is a major concern for online banking.

The agency report explains that because more and more internet applications require authentication, more standardised approaches to user identification and authentication are needed.

In Europe, several States have already rolled out electronic ID cards.

The first steps when we use internet services are usually to identify ourselves by our names and then authenticate that it is us.

The security levels for these steps can vary from a simple combination of username, password, through a secret PIN, to credentials generated by some external device or a smart card using cryptography.

Chips in cards

Smart cards are increasingly being used for authentication purposes. Many European identity cards contain a smart-card chip, with functionalities for online authentication.

The ENISA Position Paper defines a comprehensive list of requirements for national ID cards to ensure they become as flexible and as multi-purpose as possible.

“Electronic identity cards offer secure, reliable electronic authentication to internet services, but banks and governments must co-operate better to be able to use national eID cards for banking purposes,” said the executive director of ENISA, Dr Udo Helmbrecht.

By John Kennedy

Photo: The European Network and Information Security Agency has proposed the introduction of a privacy-protecting universally applicable eID card.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years