Michael Osborne  Michael Osborne photo         

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Security Research
Zurich Research Laboratory, Zurich, Switzerland


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Operating in an environment that increasingly relies on technology to ensure secure identity verification and authentication, research staff member Michael Osborne is helping develop secure ID solutions that address governments' and businesses' safety concerns while protecting personal privacy.

Security is a pressing concern for businesses and governments around the world due to heightened terrorist threats and a recent wave of identity fraud. The response has been increased reliance on biometrics for identity verification and authentication, coupled with advanced encryption techniques for data transfer. A number of governments are piloting biometric passports and businesses are turning to technology solutions to ensure the safety and security of their physical workplaces, as well as the data they collect.

At the IBM Research - Zurich Laboratory, Michael Osborne has been lending his expertise in secure identity technology to meet this growing demand. Working together with consultants from IBM Global Business Services, Michael has played a key role in designing smart card, biometrics and PKI solutions that address both security and privacy concerns. As a research staff member of the Bluez Business Computing team, Michael was involved in the design and integration of the security architecture for a French land registry project (GILFAM). The project entailed stringent requirements in the areas of long-term digital signatures and biometric based non-repudiation, and mandated a comprehensive security architecture that encompassed SSO, biometrics, smart cards, FINREAD class 4 card readers, PKI, TSA and tamper-proof cryptographic coprocessors.

"Secure identity is about systems that prove in a secure way that you are who you say you are," says Michael. "It covers the processes of collecting and verifying the data required to identify a person, the transferring of this identity to a suitable document, and the usage of this identity in a given infrastructure. These systems require the secure combination of technologies such as security printing, smart chips, cryptography and biometrics in a way that protects the privacy of the user."

Michael's tenure at IBM Research - Zurich began in 1997, developing advanced routing protocols for IBM networking hardware division WAN products. In 1999 his work on routing protocols extended to include mobile networks — an effort that culminated in a Golden Nugget award at the U.S. Joint Warrior Interoperability Demonstration.

Since 2000, Michael's work has focused on smart card and security projects, including a government services ID card and a nationwide consumer payments smart card for two Global Business Services clients. As more countries move toward providing their citizens with e-government services, the need for portable secure identity cards will increase. In general, he works on augmenting the security features of printed security documents with electronic ones in order to increase reliability, ease-of-use and security. To do so, he integrates advanced plastic and chip technology with biometric capabilities such as fingerprint scanning.

Michael Osborne is currently manager of the Security research group at IBM Research - Zurich, whose work concentrates on many aspects of information security, including secure ID solutions, data storage security, identity governance, cloud computing security and many more.

To produce secure identity in the form of documents containing microchips and biometric capabilities requires bringing together and integrating a raft of various technologies. In addition, existing user enrollment and document production processes must be overhauled, all the while being mindful of the need to protect the privacy of the individual users.