Technologies for the documentary safety

Diego Pérez Vieites | Researcher

Tasks like downloading, copying, editing and sharing any type of file or document are nowadays very simple thanks to the advances in Information Technologies during the last years. However, this has involved great economic losses on the entertainment industry (movies, music, etc.), and it is also generating serious document security problems, where the best examples nowadays are the forging of documents and information leakage/theft.

The forgery of documents, identity documents in particular, is a widespread problem that involves international mafias and mobilizes a lot of resources of the security forces. Defense mechanisms against counterfeit documents have traditionally been based on protecting the physical documents by means of highly specific materials and manufacturing processes, so that a genuine document becomes very difficult to copy and change without being detected. In recent years, electronic components have been incorporated into documents that increase their security by biometric and cryptographic technologies. Electronic identification documents such as the European electronic passport or Spanish electronic ID, are widespread nowadays.

More recently, low-cost solutions have become available, based soley on cryptographic and signal processing technologies, that work with standard paper and printing/scanning machinery. This is the case of watermarking and / or robust hash based solutions, that protect both the authenticity and the integrity of the documents (both in electronic and printed format). The Vigo-based company Bit Oceans, for example, is a pioneer in this kind of solutions.

The other major problem in document security is information leakage/theft. In most cases, anyone with access to restricted material will have some ability to make copies, redistribute or provide such information to unauthorized personnel. Control of these security holes is essential in day to day business and all kinds of organizations that manage confidential documents, a fact that we can notice just by looking at the related news in the newspapers. Without going any further, we find the Wikileaks case as a hot topic in the media, not to mention the case of the stolen documents in the Vatican, already known as the “Vatileaks”.

The traditional way to defend against this type of attacks has always been through confidentiality agreements. Technological protection measures have not arrived until recently in the form of document management systems with access control mechanisms. Anyway, the use of such systems is still not widely spread, and there are problems not satisfactorily solved yet, as document traceability, especially with printed documents. The goal of document traceability is to identify the user responsible for an unauthorized leak of the document, either in digital or printed versions.

Watermarking technologies mentioned above constitute a solution to this problem, allowing to insert in the documents robust invisible marks, which uniquely identify the users that print or make copies of a given document.

Gradiant is currently working on several projects related to document security, based on robust hash and watermarking technologies. Part of this research is being carried out in the framework of the European project SIGNED by Bit Oceans, while also working on development of other proprietary solutions.