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MAS plane mystery shines spotlight on passport security

March 13, 2014 Aviation, Headline News 1 Comment Email Email

egtmedia59As the mystery of missing MAS flight MH370 deepens, the issues of passport theft and passport security are coming under increasing scrutiny.

Experts say travellers on stolen passports, as used by at least two people to board the vanished Malaysian Airlines flight, would be highly unlikely to get into Australia undetected.

As it happens, the two Iranian passengers known to have used stolen passports to board the missing MAS flight (they used an Austrian and an Italian passport) are now thought unlikely to have had anything to do with the plane’s disappearance.

The Sydney Morning Herald has quoted Roger Henning, head of Homeland Security Asia/Pacific and well known in the Australian travel industry, saying that despite stolen and forged documents being a multimillion dollar business in Thailand, “the likelihood of someone getting into Australia on a stolen passport is minute”.

Australia’s level of security is considered fairly close to that of the US on the issue. Australia uses Interpol’s stolen passports database alongside a “movement alert list” covering about a million people, sources say.

Any of the 40 million or so stolen passports registered with Interpol would show up immediately.

Every person who stands at passport control to get into Australia has their face analysed by biometric software to check them against the faces on the movement alert list.

Precautions are about to get tighter. Australian passports may soon incorporate voice-recognition and eye-scanning technology as the government expands biometric identification.

Australian passports have included facial recognition technology since 2005. It is used for SmartGate entry at Australian and New Zealand airports. The Australian government is now investigating “other biometric technologies”, according to an official request for tender.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) called for tenders last year to fill a new biometrics advisory panel, which will replace the current panel when its tenure expires this month.

The tender document said the scope of the new panel will be “expanded to include additional biometrics such as voice”.

Tenderers must have expertise in facial, fingerprint, iris or voice biometrics, or in signature-reading technology, the document said.

They must also be able to provide equipment such as fingerprint scanners, iris scanners, and voice acquisition devices.

In 2005, Australia became one of the first countries to introduce an ePassport with a digital chip on which the holder’s biographical data is recorded.

Today, Australia is regarded as a world leader in secure passport production and issuance. Passport offices in Australia and overseas issue about 1.8 million passports a year and more than 10 million Australians – just under half of the population – currently hold an Australian passport.

The holy grail is the perfect passport, impossible to forge and infallibly linked to the user.

Details emerging about how people boarded flight MH370 in Kuala Lumpur, however, show that there is some way to go yet.

Written by Peter Needham

Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. bruce weston says:

    mmm! appears to have exposed the ‘link’ that allows ‘illegals’ to travel by air to say indonesia and why they throw passports away

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