Security experts slam 'Australia Card 2' idea

Security experts slam 'Australia Card 2' idea

Summary: Security experts and privacy advocates unanimously agree that ID cards will not protect Australia from terrorist attacks, despite Attorney-General Philip Ruddock saying the 'key reason' for an Australian ID card would be 'national security'.Ruddock on Monday said that the government is going to review the feasibility of a national ID card and dismissed any concerns about privacy as "misplaced".

TOPICS: Security
Security experts and privacy advocates unanimously agree that ID cards will not protect Australia from terrorist attacks, despite Attorney-General Philip Ruddock saying the 'key reason' for an Australian ID card would be 'national security'.

Ruddock on Monday said that the government is going to review the feasibility of a national ID card and dismissed any concerns about privacy as "misplaced".

"[ID Cards] are important in terms of broader national security questions: we have to know who it is you are dealing with, who comes and who goes... The fear that a lot of people have about national identifiers is really quite misplaced... It is a fear based upon concerns about possible intrusions into privacy and I am saying that privacy issues are dealt with not by whether or not you have one identifier," said Ruddock.

However, his comments have been slammed by security experts, many of whom believe that a national ID card will not make Australia any safer and could have the opposite effect.

James Turner, security analyst at Frost & Sullivan Australia, likens ID cards to signature-based security applications. He said: "ID cards cannot protect us from terrorism because an ID card cannot indicate intention. It's like signature based anti-virus, the AV signature can only point out the currently known viruses; and an ID card can only identify currently known baddies."

Jo Stewart-Rattray, director of information security at Vectra Corporation agrees: "As far as its goal being to protect us from terrorist attacks, I don't think so. The bad guys will always find a way to propagate their own version of these cards. It is not protecting us against terrorist attacks by any means."

Stewart-Rattray's comments echoed those of ex-MI5 chief Dame Stella Rimington, who late last year said ID cards were "useless" at fighting terrorism.

"If we have ID cards at vast expense and people can go into a back room and forge them they are going to be absolutely useless. ID cards may be helpful in all kinds of things but I don't think they are necessarily going to make us any safer," said Rimington.

Security guru Bruce Schneier has for years argued that ID cards will not help improve security and could actually have the opposite effect. On his Web site, Schneier points out that a national ID card will require an "immense database" with "enormous" security risks.

"The security risks are enormous. Such a database would be a kludge of existing databases; databases that are incompatible, full of erroneous data, and unreliable. As computer scientists, we do not know how to keep a database of this magnitude secure, whether from outside hackers or the thousands of insiders authorised to access it," wrote Schneier.

Roger Clarke, who has been a board member of the Australian Privacy Foundation for almost 20 years, asked whether the "billions it would cost would be worth it", especially considering the "enormous intrusions into the affairs of the majority of law-abiding citizens".

"The primary issue is whether Ruddock can find any justification for such a scheme. To date, the assertions have been without foundation, and a huge amount of evidence exists that counters those assertions," Clarke told ZDNet Australia.

In the UK on Monday, a government proposal for introducing ID cards was dealt a blow when the House of Lords voted against the government to force ministers into revealing the financial details of their proposed national ID card scheme before it could be passed as law.

However, Ruddock was adamant that an inquiry into the feasibility of an Australian ID card would be carried out: "I've been asked to do it and with my Department we've been collating information that we believe is useful for undertaking a form of inquiry. I'll be announcing some terms of reference and a review and I'll be doing that fairly shortly."

Topic: Security

Munir Kotadia

About Munir Kotadia

Munir first became involved with online publishing in 1998 when he joined ZDNet UK and later moved into print publishing as Chief Reporter for IT Week, part of ZDNet UK, a weekly trade newspaper targeted at Enterprise IT managers. He later moved back into online publishing as Senior News Reporter for ZDNet UK.

Munir was recognised as Australia's Best Technology Columnist at the 5th Annual Sun Microsystems IT Journalism Awards 2007. In the previous year he was named Best News Journalist at the Consensus IT Writers Awards.

He no longer uses his Commodore 64.

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  • Passports

    Correct me if i'm wrong, but wouldn't an australian passport be classed as a national id?
  • No difference at all

    When previous terrorist attacks occoured, governments have been able to quickly identify the alleged terrorists. And that was without having a national ID card system in place.

    [Do a logic skip over the fact that the plastic card isn't going to survive a bomb blast anyway.]

    What would a national ID card do for us anyway? Enable us to have their names in time for the nightly news?

    Andrew Smith
  • Something is better than nothing.

    Something is better than nothing.

    In Italy, national identity cards were required to be carried by all persons 16 and over to help combat Mafia and terrorist activity in the 70s and 80s. This is still the case today.

    Terrorism is such a catch word, so leaving that to one side, something is required to help identify:
    * Person's bona fides - eg, Banking or commercial transactions, student examination (cheating)
    * a person's age; pubs,clubs, travel concession allowances, etc.
    * It could even replace Medicare cards.

    As mentioned before, a passport will do. The government should identify the cost of expanding the utilisation of passports for all citizens over 15.
  • italian id cards

    wow, so italy uses ID cards to combat the mafia. obviously there is no more mafia so the cards MUST work.

    i'm completely sold on the idea now.

  • OK, but who has a better idea?

    It's all well and good to criticise those attempting to introduce the ID card, but what solutions are there to help us in every day transactions with others? When you purchase on eBay it would be nice to know exactly who it is you are buying a product from, when someone has an epileptic fit, stroke, etc., it would be good to ID the person immediately and give the correct assistance, and yes, terrorism needs to be eradicated and correct identification of persons will assist in this, not to mention other violent crimes and corporate fraud. In my book those who are against ID cards, are mostly those that have something to hide. Both individuals and corporates abuse the freedoms of our country, so how do we stop them. This doesn't make me a supporter of the ID card, and I am sure there are better options, but why aren't we hearing about them in the press? Who has a solution?
  • It did work...

    I said 70s and 80s. If you know anything of history most of these Mafia groups had their key members arrested and disbanded including a former president.

    The point is that identity papers should be mandatory - and useful as the next post has put it. I don't care about terrorism, I care about things like illegal immigrants and fraudulent people. There is no standard method to identfy people. The current system of 100 points is a joke.

    What would be shame is if the government spends lots of our money putting into place some sad ID card when we can extend some existing system like a drivers licence or passport - and make it national.

    The guy in the article talks about a proposed database system with millions of records and how costly it will be. The ATO already have this in place. Why duplicate it?
  • Government needs to detail its requirements!

    I think before the government runs down the path of national ID cards they need to detail there requirements. It seems to be like the have an answer trying to find a problem and terrorism seems as good as any, especially given the current climate. My basic assessment of the cost vs. benefit of a national ID combating terrorism just doesn
  • I.D. cards

    I am disabled and the RTA will not give me a new card.I have been disabled for
    15 years and my poor wife does all the driving.The driving licence with photo was my only
    way of telling people who I wasI think the I.D. CARD IS A GOOD IDEA.
  • Privacy?!?

    We already have masses of databases which have put together most things about us. Most medical centers will have your medical records on their database and I think that a national system would be more secure than a small private medical center. Adding to this, a national id system will help if you are in a car crash because the paramedics on that get their can use the id card to check if the patient will have any side affects to any treatment given. I think that people are dismissing a national id system before they take a good look at it. Though I do think the government should be more forthcoming in what they want to go into the id card.
  • italian id cards

    I'm sorry but your comments on the italian experience are fundamentally incorrect. The existence of the id card has not been the reason for a reduction in organised crime; that has been due to the courage of a number of senior judges and prosecutors.

    Italian id cards did not prevent the emergence or activities of the Red Brigade terrorist group, of the significant problems Italy has today with illegal immigration. Besides, the id card most italians have today is a joke -- basically photo id on a paper card. Friends of mine still have ones with a 30 yo photo.

    Italy did announce a shift to smartcard based systems in 2001 but they have subsequently discovered the major problems (and cost!) that arise when you need to run a registration process that requires biometric data from the whole population.
  • Federated identity is a better idea

    The issue is not the id card, it's the centralisation of information behind the card in a database, access to which needs to be carefully and strictly controlled.

    The truth is, for most of the areas you mention, we already have a range of solutions and practices in place which enable us to "identify" ourselves for various purposes. And for those with medical problems, I suggest that simple devices such as bracelets and tags work well, are easily understood by emergency services personnel, and are not subject to interface errors or damage as a smart card might be.

    ID cards: the need is just so over-stated but under-justified!
  • How about getting a passport?

    There are other forms of ID for other purposes, such as Medicare card, credit cards (Citibank still have the photo option), etc...