Big Brother, Holocaust, and the Rapture all come to mind when hearing the news about Biometrics. Both the government in general and Homeland Security are increasing their efforts toward widespread biometrics. However, recently 9 million Israelis have had their information stolen.
Whenever a foreigner enters the United States their photographs and fingerprints, which comprise their biometric data, are compared against the huge US-VISIT database. If they are not in the database, their information is entered. Not only does the service aid in uncovering criminals, it also inhibits identity theft. So governments all over the world are implementing biometrics.
The problem is the same with any database. All the information becomes available to a thief who can access the database server. So much information in one place becomes exponentially more vulnerable to attacks of theft. Israel’s biometric database is the most recent example. Almost every citizen, living and dead, has become a victim of cyber theft by the stealing of the biometric database in Israel. 9 million identities have been stolen, all Jewish.
The suspected thief was captured Monday. He was an employee of the Israeli Welfare Ministry and had been engaging in petty, white collar crimes. It has taken authorities five years to locate the thief, since he had stolen the database in 2006.
The man had been fired and then retaliated by distributing the database to many throughout the Hasidic Jewish criminal community. Six different people were reproducing the database and selling it on the black market. The natural outcome was that the database was posted Online. It was uploaded and quickly become available in torrent form.
The information the thief grabbed included the name, place and date of birth, national id number, and family members, and detailed, sensitive health information of all 9 million Israelis. Adoption information of many children, revealing their birth parents, was also in the database. The disaster could spell radical changes in the outlook of governments all over the world toward biometrics. Yoram Cohen, from the Israeli Ministry of Justice, said, “Even touching this information should make anyone feel guilty of a crime against humanity, participating in the theft of the Population Registry Information.”
In spite of the disturbing crime against Israel, biometrics are here to stay. Biometrics are the future of India, where the government is constructing the world’s most complicated and largest registry information database. It is designed to aid in providing easier access to education and health care for the population. In the European Union, some countries, such as Germany and the Netherlands, already integrate biometric information in the RFID chips on passports. The United States is also in the process, through the FBI, of assembling a database worth a billion dollars. It will be accessible to all law enforcement agencies, both local and national. The law enforcement agent will be able to pull up mugshots and fingerprints instantly on any one of millions of people.
While the idea is creepy to the average Joe, it is practical and efficient. Biometric databases save money and streamline bureaucracies. The risks are great, as was proven by the Israeli inside job, though. It was a white collar crime, but the end result was the same as if it had been stolen by some enemy of the Israeli state. Is it worth the risk?