Transcripts Securing the Data | digitalLEARNING Magazine
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Transcripts Securing the Data

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Dr Sankaran Raghunathan, Dean, The National Management School, India


Dr Sankaran Raghunathan is an expert in transcript or document security matters; he has participated in international conferences that discuss matters related to transcripts and has made significant contributions in those debates. He can be reached at sankaran@nms.edu.in


One issue that is being addressed across countries in higher education is the secure generation, distribution, and, subsequent verification of transcripts. Imagine a situation where Universities can generate transcripts either on ordinary paper or electronically in a very secure format that cannot be tampered with; distribute this secure transcript without the need for sharing the data with any third party; with the transcript so issued being verifiable at any time or place via the internet without recourse to the original database or the issuing University.

The solution should meet the following criteria:
• Enables generation of tamper-proof transcripts on ordinary paper or electronically
• Does not require any additional spending on media
• Does not require investment in any new infrastructure either for the generation or distribution of transcripts
• Avoid sharing of student records with any central repository or third party
• Verification of the transcript should be simple, universal, and not require access to the original database
• Is less expensive to implement in terms of time, effort and money

I believe that such a solution can be found in a derivative of the bar code system or the QR code system that we all are familiar with.
In a simple format, a security mark can be used to store the student data such as grades, etc. that are normally printed on a transcript. This security mark can be printed in one corner of the transcript. The data that is originally stored there when the transcript is printed can be read by scanning the security mark. Therefore, if the data printed on the transcript is in any way tampered, the scan of the security mark will display the true data with which the verification can be done without going to the source for verification or accessing any database.
There should be a secured process evolved for generation of the security mark using the data at the time of generation of the transcript. Similarly, the decoding of the security mark should be done by an authentic process so that verification of the data from the reader is also authenticated.
Therefore, I would suggest a modification of the generally accepted generation process. The process should involve the following:
• The data that is to be stored in the security mark is first encoded using a logic
• Such an encoded data is then encrypted using an encryption key before the security mark is generated
• The security mark that is printed on a transcript cannot be generated by anybody but only by the University that is generating the transcript and which has the encoding and encrypting logic

Then, such an encoded and encrypted security mark that contains the transcript data, which is printed on a transcript can be captured as image by any scanner. The scanned image has to be opened only by the algorithm that may be available at a particular website or portal that accepts the scanned image to decrypt, decode and display the data that is stored in that security mark.
Such process need not access the original database. The University that generated the original transcript need not share the data with this portal. There is no special infrastructure needed for this portal to work, nor such an infrastructure needed to generate the security mark.
The security mark can be printed on any media including an ordinary sheet of paper. Thus, Universities can save a lot of money in eliminating the security paper on which the transcripts are printed now.
The security mark that contains the encoded and encrypted data is very secure since the security mechanism is only with the University that generates the transcript. Verification can be done from anywhere using the internet to access the portal that is the only one that can decrypt and decode the scanned security mark. Each University can have its own encoding and encryption algorithm. Centralisation of all the student transcripts is also completely avoided.
This system can be used not only for University transcripts but also wherever variable data needs to be secured on a document. Thus this is a document security mechanism.

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