DMV busts license scams

Officials at the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles discovered that biometrics was even more useful than they originally thought.

Faced with a lot of driver's license duplications — the result of people applying for a license more than once — the state decided to try fingerprint scanning to combat the problem. Eventually, a facial- matching system was also used when mandatory finger-image legislation failed to pass.

To use the new application system, all of the state's DMV sites needed access to a central database. So the government built a frame- relay network to connect all of the permanent and temporary application centers. But security on the network of widely dispersed work-stations was an issue.

After considering various solutions involving physical locks and typed passwords, officials decided to try the same fingerprint-scanning technology used in the application process for the network.

"That's worked very well for us so far," said Lacey Morgan, director of West Virginia's information services. "It's also meant we can track who is using the computers and when they are using them. Without this fingerprint-scan access, it's unlikely we'd have that level of control."

In fact, the network-access solution initially worked better than the original license application system. There were problems with training people to correctly scan applicant's fingerprints and take photographs for the facial-recognition system, Morgan said.

The biometrics was included in the total cost of the frame-relay network,so it is difficult to put a price tag on the solution, Morgan said. But given the decline in license duplication and the increased system security, he thinks it has more than paid for itself.

"Given that we were in front and hanging there with no help available, I think we've done OK," he said.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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