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Online Document Verification: How Does It Work?

Robert MacDonald

Online document verification has become a useful tool in the current environment of remote onboarding; it eliminates the need for in-person verification.

What is the document verification process? Document verification is the process of confirming the authenticity of a document through certain characteristics like watermarks. Document verification can also occur online through facial authentication and uploads of government-issued IDs.

What Is Document Verification?

Sometimes, we make things complicated. The move to digital and online identities has, in many ways, distanced us from more traditional forms of identity verification like picture IDs and passports. While that isn’t necessarily a wrong step, there are also incredible benefits of using authentic, official documents as part of an identity verification process.

To combine the benefits of physical document verification with digital platforms, providers have begun focusing on verification as a critical part of the authentication and identity process.

Put simply, document verification is the use of technology to ingest official forms of identification into digital systems for verification. In the United States, these forms of ID often include national ID cards, driver’s licenses, or passports.

Document verification works through a series of potential validation checks that scan the ID and determine its authenticity while comparing it against information within a database. Some of the validation checks can include the following:

  • Facial Detection: Documents with photographic ID provide critical information for identity verification. These identity verification systems will often have the capability to pull image data from the ID and compare it with internal photos.
  • Data Correlation: Many official forms of ID have linked information on both front and back sides. An identity solution must correlate that data to guarantee that the ID is legitimate and that it references a given user.
  • Document Scanning and Fraud Detection: Critical to document ID is to have mechanisms in place to scan documents for critical information, including ID numbers, barcodes, etc., and link them with database information. Additionally, these scanners will notice fraudulent documents through watermarks or other forms of pattern recognition.
  • Database Checks: Depending on the provider, the scanned document will be compared against information related to thousands of IDs in a national database. A scan of a national ID would necessitate verification through official databases, and verification solutions will often have access to several national databases (or protected versions of these databases) to authenticate these documents.

    That’s why many verification solutions will boast how many thousands of document types they can verify—more documents often mean wider coverage for international users.

  • Selfie Liveness and ID Checks: As part of an advanced biometrics and verification, these solutions will often deploy image checks against user selfies from mobile devices. Not only will this support immediate image comparisons against IDs to connect biometrics and document verification, but will also include liveness testing to authenticate that the right user is present and prevent spoofing.

What Role Does Document Verification Play in Compliance?

Even in regulated industries, most compliance standards don’t necessarily require digital document verification. They will, however, often have physical verification between people at the point of service.

However, the continued expansion of digital platforms has driven the demand for online onboarding and verification to streamline digital customer service. This, of course, presents issues with verification and drives interest in digital document verification.

One industry where online customer service and regulations butt heads is the banking and financial sector. After 9/11 and the formation of the Department of Homeland Security (as well as the passing of the U.S. Patriot Act), several key regulations were put into place or strengthened to prevent money laundering in service of terrorism.

Two major regulations that were created during this time are the Know Your Customer and Anti-Money Laundering laws:

  • Know Your Customer requires that financial institutions employ rigorous customer verification procedures, including compliant identity and document verification, background checks, and other screening measures.
  • Anti-Money Laundering Laws is a broader set of regulations meant to combat money laundering and, in many cases, is often required alongside KYC checks.

Additionally, other regulations may require document or ID verification alongside other credentials.

One of these is the Identity Assurance Levels: This standard from the National Institute of Standards and Technology provides guidance on levels of acceptable verification for certain government applications or system protection for sensitive information. At IAL Level 2 (IAL2), identity verification is required through an official document with a photo ID and, depending on the security requirements, authentication of documents either through digital platforms or in-person meetings.

However, it’s important to note that document verification is not identity verification, even if it plays a significant role in these ID verification standards. Document verification is simply the act of verifying that a document is real, associated with who it says it is associated with and can be used to verify or authenticate the identity of a user.

Machine Learning and Document Verification

Most of the problems that stem from online document verification come from inaccuracies related to scanning or document authentication. Traditional verification methods relied on an algorithmic understanding of documents and patterns in images, which could not compete with a human inspection. Machine learning has shifted those issues and made online verification more accurate and dependable.

Machine learning can support more advanced online document scanning and optical character recognition to notice fraudulent credentials. More importantly, machine learning tools can learn through practice. Data scientists can feed real and fake documents worldwide into an intelligent verification system to train that system to catch more advanced forgeries without sacrificing performance.

Machine learning also brings frictionless verification to users in a variety of contexts. Users with cameras can provide document scans and selfies to AI-driven verification systems that streamline accurate document ID authentication wherever the user is. This supports easy onboarding for those users.

Incorporate Online Document Verification with Authentication through 1Kosmos BlockID

One of the biggest challenges facing modern authentication and identity management is resisting modern fraud. Identity spoofing, credential theft, and identity theft are major problems that many platforms aren’t equipped to handle. It takes a combination of multi-factor authentication and biometrics implemented with frictionless identity and document verification and liveness testing.

1Kosmos BlockID offers all of these features:

  • Identity Proofing: BlockID includes Identity Assurance Level 2 (NIST 800-63A IAL2), detects fraudulent or duplicate identities, and establishes or reestablishes credential verification.
  • Identity-Based Authentication Orchestration: We push biometrics and authentication into a new “who you are” paradigm. BlockID uses biometrics to identify individuals, not devices, through credential triangulation and validation.
  • SIM Binding: The BlockID application uses SMS verification, identity proofing, and SIM card authentication to create solid, robust, and secure device authentication from any employee’s phone.
  • Integration with Secure MFA: BlockID readily integrates with a standard-based API to operating systems, applications, and MFA infrastructure at AAL2. BlockID is also FIDO2 certified, protecting against attacks that attempt to circumvent multi-factor authentication.
  • Cloud-Native Architecture: Flexible and scalable cloud architecture makes it simple to build applications using our standard API, including private blockchains.
  • Privacy by Design: 1Kosmos protects personally identifiable information in a private blockchain and encrypts digital identities in secure enclaves only accessible through advanced biometric verification.

To discover the power and security of 1Kosmos, read more about our Identity Proofing. Also, make sure to sign up for our email newsletter to get information, data sheets, and updates on 1Kosmos authentication and identity management products.