Levels of Identity Security

Levels of Identity Security

There are 4 recognized security levels that can be implemented in identification documents.

It sounds simple. And it is.

Level 1 Security

First level (overt) relates to security features that can be easily checked by the public without special aids.

Level 2 Security

Second level (covert) relates to security features that can be checked with simple aids, such as magnifiers and UV-lamps.

Level 3 Security

Third level (forensic) security features are for qualified forensic laboratories with and other complex laboratory equipment.

Level 4 Security

Fourth security level is secret and includes safety measures known only to a narrow range of experts in many cases the manufacturer only.

Level 1 document security features: your front door key

The main principle of these security features is that fraud will preferably be detected at the level 1- with the naked eye – and with close attention paid to alteration of personal information.

Watch some of our features on level 1 and Level 2 in our video.

The document is also protected against counterfeiting following the same principle.

Gemalto is highly experienced in security design and will propose, in accordance with customer requirements, a solution that delivers maximum protection against forgery, counterfeiting and unlawful personalization.

The documents will also be manufactured with the use of directly applicable techniques that are highly effective in this respect.

3 groups of security features

There are three groups of security features that can be implemented:
1. Security Features that are difficult to copy

  • Security printing
  • Optically variable features
  • Non-printed security – elements such as holograms and surface structures

2. Security Features that are difficult to produce

  • Security printing
  • Optical effects
  • Surface structures

3. Technologies/materials that are difficult to come by

  • Certain printing technologies
  • Security paper
  • Special holograms
  • Special high-security inks

Digital security: the 5th dimension

Digital security is the 5th level we did not mention earlier. It’s a dimension unseen by the naked eye but real. 

Think about this for a moment.

Electronic identity documents such as national ID cards or ePassports equipped with a microprocessor and secure applications offer an additional dimension of security to the physical features.


Because secured digital data is virtually impossible to alter and allows reliable automated verification and easy machine readability.

Identity security

     The micro-controller included in the passport for example represents a highly secure feature in itself.

The best part?     

In the case that a counterfeiter successfully manages to change the portrait and citizen information on the data page, the data in the chip cannot be accessed and altered.

Any tampering attempt can be detected since the altered data will not compute correctly, as it has not been signed and authorized by the Issuing Authority.

If fingerprints are stored in the chip, a simple biometric matching can be done in order to verify the document to the person presenting it.

Smart security features

  • Use of the latest cryptography to secure the data
  • In-house developed end-to-end applications
  • Biometric data for secure identification
  • Highest level of privacy and security
  • Confidential communication by contact or contactless, or both (dual interface)

Secure application features

  • Secure data storage, identification, authentication and digital signature
  • Protection by PIN or biometric authentication
  • Multi-usage of electronic cards for identification, travel, payment and much more
  • Automated verification
  • Yes, you’ve got it.

Security features and the microprocessor in the card or passport can create a powerful combination to authenticate the document and the holder’s data.

Where do we fit?

Gemalto has a background of secure government printing dating back to 1886 with the acquisition of Setec, formerly Finland’s National Printing House in 2005.

Level 2 security feature

 Level 2 security feature: UV ink – here the edge of a passport under ultraviolet light.

Printing expertise includes banknotes, stamps and identity documents with a long track-record in innovation. 

Gemalto has five certified security printing sites worldwide (ISO 14298 INTERGRAF).

As a result, the company can offer clients unrivaled business continuity and global supply chain integrity for the production of a wide range of innovative documents including ePassports and eID cards.

Typically, Gemalto works together with its client’s security features experts in order to make the best possible selection of features to match the client’s needs.

The goal is that the product and its authenticity can be indisputably trusted.

This is achieved by using technologies that make documents impossible to copy, using several different technologies, using each technology at the highest achievable quality and level, and using rare means and materials with limited availability.

In other words, Gemalto uses technologies and materials that are difficult to copy, difficult to use, and difficult to come by.

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