ENTRY NO. 47
Personal Optical Data Storage Device for Prevention of Identity Theft
Sean Landwehr, Andrew Buchheit, and Harlan Brown-Shaklee
University of Missouri-Rolla
Rolla, MO, USA
The intended use of high strength glass proposed in this document is as a storage medium
for personal information in standard credit card size. High strength is desired as localized
crystallization of the glass will be the mechanism of data storage and thus local stresses will
arise. However, the driving need for high strength is the unpredictable environment the card will
see in wallets, purses and use the environment.
Background and Need
In the name of convenience there have been several developments to aid consumers in
lightening their imaginary pocketbooks. The word imaginary is used because many of these
transactions are paperless and may not even require the consumer to remove a card from their
wallet as is the case with radio frequency identification (RFID) chips being placed in cards now.
Within these chips is stored a myriad of personal information. While these developments grease
the wheels of the modern global economy they lead to a greater threat of identity theft. Annually
identity theft in the US alone costs the economy $53-56 billion i. Here is a closer look at some of
the current technologies available and their shortcomings.
Perhaps one of the oldest technologies is the plastic card consisting of a raised number on
the front and a magnetic strip storing data on the back. In terms of fraud and identity theft the
simplest situation to think of is the use of a lost or stolen card. There are no safe guards to
ensure that the person using the card is the owner of the card. The data storage on the card is
simply not enough, thus, implementation of additional safeguards such as fingerprint scans or
retinal scans are necessary. The process of deactivating the card requires the credit card
company to be notified or outrageous purchases to be made. At that point the damage is already
done when the proprietor confiscates the card as advised by the card company. Furthermore, the
magnetic strip has easily corrupted data and often needs to be replaced for this reason (once the
card can no longer be read with the aid of a plastic grocery bag at a point of sale machine).
An upgrade to the magnetic strip is the integrated circuit card (ICC), often referred to a
“SmartCard”ii. This integrates a chip onto the card and allows for the storage of more
information on the card, but is still vulnerable to theft and fraud. The chip, made of silicon, can
also break. To prevent breakage, the chip on ICC’s are thick and inflexible making for increased
discomfort when carrying in wallets or in your back pocket. This technology has also been
recently adopted by the US Department of Defense (DoD), where all personnel carry ICC
identification cards called common access cards (CAC’s). This includes computer scientists and
combat infantrymen. For the more rugged occupations in the DoD these cards are placed in
bulky polycarbonate holders to prevent breakage.
RFID chips offer little verification and allow many small purchases to be made
unchecked. Activation ranges of RFID chips are on the scale of inches to feet. These cards are
popular for use at gas stations, toll plazas, public transportation and are expanding to fast food
restaurant chains. In addition to cards, RFID chips have progressed into vehicles for use as
antitheft devicesiii . Just as with smart cards, RFID chips are prone to breakage but also have
ENTRY NO. 47
antennas that are fragile. If either of these components breaks or is distorted, the chip will not
function as intended.
Here it is proposed that a glass, with increased strength, will be able solve many of the
problems with current technology as described above. First, the glass will allow for the storage
of large quantities of incorruptible information by optical means. Second, the strength of the
glass will allow for the information carrying device to be made thin yet robust enough for the
rigors of ones pocket. And finally, the glass data card will aid in identity theft prevention by
providing a convenient means of data destruction upon the card’s theft.
Design of Data Card
A method for the formation of nanorods in glass bulk samples is proposed. Nanorods
approximately 200nm in diameter will be produced via selective crystallization using localized
heating by pulsed laser radiation. Several short wavelength lasers will be used to crystallize
nano structures within the bulk of the glass. By focusing lasers on a single spot below the glass
surface, transition metal ions in the glass absorb the high intensity radiation and locally heat the
glass above the Tg. The subsurface crystallization will not affect the stress gradients induced by
chemical or thermal strengthening. The glass composition will be chosen such that the
crystallization is local to the laser spot and rapid enough to prevent heating in the bulk causing
relaxation of beneficial stresses. The glass composition needed for the rapid crystallization may
need to be roller quenched to achieve rapid quench rates. This rapid quench rate would not only
prevent unwanted bulk crystallization but would serve as a strengthening method for the 300μm
thick glass. Local crystallization in the center of the glass bulk will only serve to add
compressive stress due to a reduction in volume. A volumetric reduction will occur as local
relaxation proceeds and the atoms begin to align. Following nucleation, growth of the periodic
atomic planes will result in additional volume reduction that creates a tensile stress field within
the glass bulk.
Figure 1 shows a schematic for the production of laser induced selective crystallization.
Shown in the schematic are two lasers focused on a single point beneath the glass surface.
Nanorods form at the point of laser beam convergence. The nanorods can be of controlled length
and diameter as a method of storage.
The digital data (rod or no-rod) can
be accompanied by a adjustable
aspect ratio to increase information
Use of this kind of
technology has already been used in
making trinkets, or home knick-
knacks. An example of one of these
knick-knacks (and incidentally an
inspiration for the currently
proposed idea) is shown in Figure 2.
In this case a three dimensional
unicorn design has been made by
selective crystallization in a block of
Figure 1. Schematic of proposed laser induced crystallization
ENTRY NO. 47
Scanning of the glass card when purchasing items at
stores will be performed with machines similar to the current
point of sale devices. The card will be inserted into the device,
apply monochromatic light (slightly above the UV-Vis edge) on
one side and read the transmitted light. The resulting pattern
from scattered and transmitted light would be compared to
database values thus allowing the transaction to occur.
Small PCMCIA card readers may be purchased for use
with personal computers. When performing online transactions
the card would be scanned similarly to offline scanning. The
scanners can be used to lock your computer to allow only Figure 2. Unicorn knick-
specific people access. With the upcoming instant-on computer knack produced via selective
technologyiv,v, the insertion of an approved user’s card could turn
on the computer or load their profile on multiple user computers.
The major issue, as stated earlier, with all forms of identification and information storage
is identity theft. As long as the glass has some sort of surface treatment to impart the strength,
identity theft will be prevented by destruction of the storage media. Card readers at stores can be
equipped with a diamond indenter able to pierce through the strengthened layer to cause failure
of the entire piece. Once the card is reported stolen, the first use at a store will result in
destruction of the card and notification of law enforcement. Prevention of online theft would
require additional levels of identification, such as fingerprint scans. Another security feature is
the inherent directionally dependent scanning of the card. The source must be on one side of the
card and the reader must be parallel to the source. Cards cannot be scanned remotely.
Visual inspection of the card will not reveal any information that is of any significance.
A coating can be applied that would be opaque in the visible spectrum but semi- or fully
transparent at the scanning frequency. This spectrally selective coating would prevent a card
thief from identifying the location of the information on the card. This will allow information to
be placed sparsely across the card, increasing the difficulty of removing/identifying the encoded
information. This coating will also contain the fragments of the card if it is destroyed
intentionally. Scanning at the UV-Vis edge allows the crystallites to be of size that will not be
visible to the human eye or standard computer scanners, adding yet another layer of security
should the coating be removed.
RFIDs can be attached to the glass portion of the card and sealed with the coating. The
intended use of these RFIDs would be to activate an explosively driven indenter that can be
remotely activated to destroy the card as with the in-store security system described above.
ENTRY NO. 47
“New Research Shows Identity Fraud Growth Is Contained and Consumers Have More Control Than They Think”
Better Business Bureau (2006). Available at <http://www.bbbonline.org/IDTheft/safetyQuiz.asp> Accessed 4/2007.