Card security is an understandable concern for many public and private organizations, and the use of security features to detect fraudulent cards is increasing everywhere. An ID card is the visual verification that the person is supposed to be there, and is who they say they are, so it needs to be secure and easily validated.
Higher education may be lagging behind other vertical markets in the implementation of advanced card security features, but it really shouldn’t be. No institution wants to be involved in an incident where a fraudulent campus card is used for illegal or unethical purposes.
Other organizations routinely accept student IDs as a valid form of identification, so it is essential for your cards to be legitimate. Particularly in states where a student ID is accepted as proof of identity for voting, it makes a lot of sense to have verifiable protections on your issued cards.
The widespread availability and common knowledge of card printers makes it easy for others to duplicate the look of your card. In addition, the Internet is full of fake ID sites where you can purchase fraudulent student ID cards. Here’s just one example. The presence of these sites raises an important question: Why would these sites exist if there were no value in having a fake campus card?
It is important to protect your ID card by adding security features that you can manage and afford. There are a wide variety of advanced card security options available today, many of which aren’t overly expensive.
But before you dive in with advanced card security features, consider the following:
- Do you want your card security features to be overt, covert, or both?
- Should you add two card security features; one in card manufacturing and one in the issuance process?
- What is the cost per card for these features?
- Does the addition of a security feature during card manufacturing affect the availability and lead-time of the card stock?
- Does the addition of a feature during card issuance affect the cost per card or time required to print the ID?
It is important to thoroughly consider the options for both aspects of card security – during the manufacturing process for the stock for fixed security items, and during the actual card issuance process.
Before your cardstock even arrives on campus, there are a host of security features that can be added to the card body during the manufacturing process. A number of these features may be proprietary to a specific manufacturer, but there are at least two features that are common for nearly all manufacturers.
The first feature, UV ink, is perhaps best known for its ability to appear when held under a black light. Credit cards and driver licenses routinely leverage this security feature to verify the validity of the credential. This, of course, requires use of a simple, low-cost black light to verify. If your campus is currently using pre-printed cardstock, the addition of UV ink should be easy and inexpensive.
The second common security feature, holographic foil, can also be added during the card manufacturing process. Holographic foil is a strong visual indicator of a card’s authenticity. The foil can be applied at the card factory and can either be embedded under the card lamination, or applied on top of the lamination. As with UV ink, the use of holographic foil is also reasonably priced.
It’s important to note, too, that there are a variety of other secure printing options available from various card manufacturers. Other security features include the use of micro text, guilloche patterns, lenticular imagery and opacity marks. However, UV inks and holographic foils remain the most popular options.
Once your cardstock is on campus, there are still several security options that you can implement onsite through the use of your card printers. The security features you choose will ultimately depend on the printer technology your disposal (direct-to-card or retransfer), your visual security preference (overt or covert), and your budget.
When it comes to adding security features during the issuance process, a campus should first consider whether overt or covert security is preferable. Overt security features can be seen by the naked eye and/or felt by the fingers. Examples of overt features include holographic foils, holographic laminates and tactile impressions. Covert security features, on the other hand, aren’t visible to the naked eye and require a tool to verify. Examples include UV printing and the use of a black light, or micro text printing and the use of a magnifying instrument.
UV fluorescing ribbons
Similar to printing UV ink at the factory, most desktop ID card printers now offer UV fluorescing or UV ink panels on color ribbons, which enables the printing of static or variable images and information in an ultraviolet layer that can be seen with the use of a black light. This is an extremely inexpensive way to add easily verifiable information on a student ID card.
It is important to note that not all card printers can provide the same level of quality, as some can only print a static image or text field that is common to every issued card. Using a variable field, such as person’s photo, for the UV image is much more secure.
Custom or generic holographic laminates can be used on most ID card types. An overt security feature, holographic laminate images can be seen by the naked eye without the need for a special tool.
Traditionally, custom holographic laminates carry a high minimum order, making it a sensible option for only larger issuers. Features like micro text or UV layers can also be added to the laminate to increase overall security. Generic holographic laminates, meanwhile, add some security and can keep data and images underneath from being altered on validly issued cards. Generic laminates are, however, available for purchase on the open market thereby making them less secure than custom laminates. Most printer models with lamination capabilities support both options.
Micro text printing
With the increasing availability of 600 dpi card printers, the ability to print true micro text is now a realistic option. Typeface printing as small as two-point font size can now be used, enabling you to print a very small field of static or variable data. A covert security feature, micro text can be confirmed with the use of a magnifier. 600 dpi printing is currently available only on certain retransfer card printers, two of which are offered by your local ISG dealers: the ISG PEAK RTX6000, and the new Datacard CR805.
Tactile impression is available only on certain Entrust Datacard printers, such as the CD800 CLM. It adds security that you can both see and feel, by using a custom die attached inside the card printer’s lamination module. The die can be something like a static security seal, or even your institution’s logo or emblem. The die impresses into the card surface during the lamination process. The result is an impressive tactile security feature that is quite affordable.
Is it a fit for me?
We estimate the use of card security features to be low in the higher education market today, with less than 10% of campuses leveraging these valuable features.
For those campuses that have implemented advanced card security, two of the more common features being used are holographic lamination and tactile impression. But with the growing availability of new 600 dpi retransfer printers we are seeing movement toward the use of UV Fluorescing ribbons and micro text printing, as well.
In a perfect world, deploying both a static, overt feature and a covert feature using variable images or data, provides a superior level of credential security. If your budget only allows for the implementation of a single security feature, however, then an overt feature is likely your best option, as it doesn’t require the use of special tools for verification.
At this point, you may be wondering if your campus card needs a security feature. Maybe your campus scans the card in every possible environment; isn’t that enough? This is a valid question, but scanning cards alone doesn’t fully guarantee that the card being presented has been validly issued.
It’s probably difficult to have a card reader on hand for every single event or purpose. And for campuses leveraging legacy card technologies like magnetic stripe or proximity, those cards can be easily cloned. Ultimately, if a person is willing to go to the trouble of forging a fake student ID card, they probably have the desire to create it with as much valid data and imagery as possible.
It’s important to remember that there are uses for fraudulent student ID cards beyond the confines of your campus, like for voting, underage drinking, or setting up false identities. Enhanced card security features can help deter these activities.