By Craig Guthrie, deputy editorIn the lead-up to the connect:ID event on March 23-25, which will explore aspects of personal identity and its management in both the physical and digital worlds, Security Document World has organised interviews with certain key speakers.In this first interview, we discuss secure document trends and innovations with Joel Zlotnick, supervisory physical scientist at the US Department of State.What gaps remain in the realm of secure document design and anti-counterfeiting technology that still need to be plugged?Attacking a sophisticated and well-engineered security document can be a daunting task that many criminals are not willing to attempt. Yet, some advanced documents with a high resistance to counterfeiting may be vulnerable to alteration attacks, such as the harvesting of security feature materials from a genuine for recycling into a counterfeit. On the other hand, low-tech documents may show a limited resistance to counterfeiting but strong resistance to alteration because of how they are manufactured and the technology used for personalisation. The best secure document designs complicate both counterfeiting and alteration. Additionally, there is the question of breeder documents as a means of access to documents of greater sophistication. If a genuine high-tech passport or driving license can be obtained by counterfeiting a low-tech birth certificate or through identity theft, then a criminal may never be forced to attack the more secure document. What is the best overarching strategy to stay ahead of counterfeiters and fraudsters?Security features don't exist in a vacuum; they exist within a matrix of the other document components. When a new document is designed, the security feature selection process should work in tandem with the artwork design process, which incorporates the security features into the artwork and makes the document components work together to protect one another from both counterfeiting and alteration. When this process is not followed – when security features are selected and implemented without consideration for how they interact with other elements of the document – the result can be a jumble of technologies that are not much greater than the sum of their parts. From that viewpoint, the overarching strategy is to purposefully integrate security features with one another, and with the artwork, to maximize their value. What does this approach look like? Examples include laser engraving a document number over a metallic OVD to prevent the OVD from being harvested, or overlapping a portrait with a tactile feature, or developing background artwork with colour and line constraints that make it difficult to reverse engineer the plate setup used to print the design.What trends has the State Department noticed in terms of fraud deterrence for plastic card credentials?The ability of many security documents to resist the physical attacks of counterfeiting and alteration has improved dramatically in recent years as a result of technological advancements. That's due not only to security feature advancements, but also in manufacturing and personalisation techniques that more thoroughly bind the credential components – substrate, security features, artwork and bearer personalisation data – so they cannot be separated once bound together in the credential. As these strategies make physical attacks on sophisticated credentials increasingly difficult, fraud migrates away from counterfeiting and alteration, and moves toward impostoring, identity theft and physical attacks on less-sophisticated breeder documents.What have the important developments been in personalisation technology over the past few years?The most well-known advancement in personalisation technology for secure credentials over recent decades is laser engraving, which offers high permanence and facilitates the inclusion of several other security features. While laser engraving plays an increasing role in secure credential personalisation, many issuers still opt for thermal technologies, for various reasons. The question for both processes is whether the maximum value is being extracted from the personalisation technology of choice. In other words, how do the specifics of the personalisation technology in the secure document help to differentiate that document from typical commercial applications for the same personalisation technology? For laser engraving, this might involve the inclusion of tactility, personalized microprinting or lenticular. For thermal, this could involve use of a non-CMYK color strategy or other methods to differentiate the thermal print from commercial digital processes. Will the introduction of documents such as enhanced driving licences involving RFID and other tech be a boon for fraud deterrence?There is no question that RFID technology can provide important benefits for fraud deterrence, but RFID should be viewed as a supplement to physical security features, rather than a replacement for them. Obviously, accessing RFID data requires a machine capable of reading the data, and the machine may require power and/or connectivity to a database to function as intended. If one or more of these elements is absent, or if a credential bearer disables the RFID, inspection of the license may default to physical security features. While RFID can offer critical utility in border crossing or immigration environments, driving licenses provide evidence of identity in many transactions where no RFID reader is accessible, from voting to age-restricted purchases. In environments where no readers are available, RFID is limited in its ability to combat fraud.What has observation of the printing techniques used by counterfeiters underlined to the State Department?Every security feature is supposed to prevent itself from being replicated or simulated, but it is too simple to just ask whether a feature has been attacked successfully or not. In reality, security features can be simulated in various ways with different effects that may not match the original feature exactly, but which are good enough to pass under various levels of scrutiny. Our question as secure document issuers and designers then becomes not just whether enough security features have been added, or whether those security features are the correct ones, but also whether they have been implemented in the best possible way to resist simulation. Essentially, the same security feature can become more or less difficult to attack, depending on how it is integrated into the document design. The conclusion is that the design of the document, and how the security features are integrated with the artwork and with one another, is an important and sometimes overlooked component of counterfeit deterrence.