A UK digital driving licence: What could possibly go wrong?

Not the security, we hope. It's a 'priority'

Security vendors have welcomed plans to trial digital versions of the UK’s driving licence.

The DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) is working on a digital version of its driving license for smartphones, to serve as an "add-on" to the existing plastic card. DVLA chief Oliver Morley tweeted a snapshot of the prototype driving licence on his iPhone, later adding that security was a priority in its development.

Simon Moffatt, EMEA director at identity and access management firm ForgeRock, welcomed the move as part of wider UK government plans to deliver more services digitally. Consumers are becoming more comfortable with paying for goods by smartphones and paperless airline travel and this is likely to smooth the introduction of digital driving licences, Moffatt argued.

“As consumers are becoming more comfortable with using digital payment mechanisms and NFC (near field communications) for performing tap payments, a further extension of this would be of course to include further identity data in a digital setting,” Moffatt said.

"The benefits to such an approach apply not only to the service provider – in the form of efficiency gains due to a reduction in physical printing and renewals – but also for the end user, in terms of increased convenience, speed of issuance and hopefully reduced fraud.”

Security issues in delivering the technology need to be addressed, according to Moffatt.

"Like any new technology related to identity data, there will clearly be a security aspect – can the data be securely stored, protected when being used and prevent fraud or malicious reuse?

"One of the main sources of identity theft and fraudulent use is often attributed to the level of human interaction that occurs in the supply chain of such data. By removing the number of physical human interactions that occur with the issuance, management and use of identity credentials such as driving licenses, passports and other ID cards, does the scope for malicious use actually reduce?”

"The secure issuance of identity credentials coupled with the security of the application will clearly need verification going forward, but coupled with the increased use of biometric, multi-factor and secondary authentication techniques, the use of such digital identity apps will surely become the norm,” Moffatt added.

UK government IT projects in general have a long and chequered history of late delivery and spiralling costs. The DVLA itself flubbed the transition away to paperless driving licences last year, with its site proving incapable of handling demand. Even though lessons might have been learned from these problems, it hardly inspires confidence. Security vendors nonetheless remain upbeat about the prospect of digital driving licences.

Paco Garcia, CTO of UK identity verification startup Yoti, said that digital driving licences had the potential to make identification process easier and more time efficient, whilst keeping the end user secure.

“The speculative plans from the DVLA to potentially introduce digital driving licenses showcases the ever-evolving need for innovative solutions within the online space,” Garcia explained.

“People are living increasingly social lives, and so looking for alternatives to original ID documents to make things easier and more time efficient. This ultimately explains the need for identification solutions that are mobile, flexible, and take advantage of advancements in technology - all while ensuring customer data remains secure.” ®

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