The company that supplies holograms for the fronts of Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, and other cards is now trying to pitch two new products: holograms that go on a cards magnetic stripe and that go on the chip of a smart card.
American Bank Note Holographics Inc. of Elmsford, N.Y., says its HoloMag technology, which combines a hologram with a magnetic stripe, produces cards that work at regular point of sale terminals and cannot easily be reproduced by skimming counterfeiting the magnetic stripe.
The beauty of what we are talking about is that it has no impact on the field in terms of reading, said Kenneth H. Traub, American Bank Note Holographics chief executive officer. It would be just like a magstripe, except that it would be very difficult to replicate.
American Bank Note Holographics was spun off from American Banknote Corp. in a 1998 initial public offering. American Banknote, the company that was begun in 1795 as a printer of U.S. currency, filed for bankruptcy in 1999 and was delisted from the New York Stock Exchange. That same year American Bank Note Holographics restated three years worth of financial results, and the subsequent scandal led to a management turnover.
Mr. Traub said the combination hologram/magnetic stripe would make counterfeiting even more difficult, and that card issuers could put a brand or a message on dead real estate on the card.
HoloMag is one of several trademarked and patented security products the company offers. HoloChip is a process for authenticating the chip placed in a smart card: The authenticating hologram is put directly on the chip and can hold many of the security features.
And despite its name, American Bank Note Holographics offers products for companies outside the financial services industry. Examples include HoloSeal, which puts protective holograms on packaging for consumer products, and HoloCap, which puts holograms on the protective skins of medicine bottles and other containers.
American Bank Note Holographics would not say whether any card issuers have adopted HoloMag or HoloChip, only that the company is marketing the products to its card customers, which also include Europay, Diners Club, and Nordstrom.
Other companies are also looking at ways to enhance security for magnetic stripes. A Singapore company called Mag-Tek Inc. has developed an anti-fraud system called Magneprint that detects counterfeit cards by comparing the electronic noise emitted by a magnetic-stripe card when swiped through a point of sale terminal with a recorded version of the noise. MasterCard International is testing the system in Asia.
Jerome Svigals, director of the Smart Card Institute in Redwood City, Calif., and an original developer of the magnetic stripe, said American Bank Note Holographics technology does not prevent skimming. The data embedded in the magnetic stripe can still be captured and can even be put on a payment card with a generic magnetic stripe, he said.
The problem is, the clerks who accept cards at point of sale are notoriously ineffective at looking at any security device on the card, Mr. Svigals said. They just slam it in the terminal.