Project to test digital watermarks

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Information Directorate announced this week that it has selected Digimarc Corp. to collaborate on a research and development project using digital watermarking to combat fraud and enhance security.

Digital watermarking ensures the security and authenticity of digital photographs by embedding an encrypted image over the photograph, similar to the watermarks used on the redesigned $20, $50 and $100 bills.

The project will explore the use of digital watermarking as a security feature for identifying fraudulent or altered identity documents, said Bruce Davis, chairman and chief executive officer of Digimarc. The contract was awarded last week and is supported by the Air Force's research and development funding, but the Tualatin, Ore.-based company would not provide further financial details.

In cooperation with AFRL, Digimarc will produce sample identification cards and deploy them as part of a security access system at a law enforcement assessment facility in Rome, N.Y., where the AFRL Information Directorate is located. The facility is visited by military, federal government and law enforcement representatives from across the nation. Digital watermarking will be used on the cards to combat fraud and enhance security, according to a spokesperson for the company.

Raymond Urtz, director of the AFRL Information Directorate, said there are "broad implications for addressing the problem of document counterfeiting and forgery through digital watermarking technology," and the AFRL is looking forward to collaborating with Digimarc on the research project. Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Science Committee, said he was excited that a portion of the $4.5 million Information Authentication/Digital Watermarking research and development project that he helped secure for Rome last year contributed to the formation of the partnership. The combined talents and expertise of the AFRL and Digimarc "is great news for homeland security and for future information assurance R&D efforts in central New York," Boehlert said.

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