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BIOMETRICS: THE KEY TO UNIFYING TECHNOLOGY AND FORMING A CHAIN OF TRUST

David Orme, Senior Vice President at IDEX Biometrics

 

Biometric fingerprint authentication is still in its infancy and often seen as a ‘gimmick’/nice to have. However, businesses and consumers should not be operating under this misapprehension as fingerprint biometrics can play a much wider role in unifying the technology we have grown to depend on. For example, many of us now rely on our fingerprints to access our smartphones and authenticate our mobile payments, but fingerprint biometrics has far greater potential to positively influence other tech-enabled areas of our lives.

 

More and more devices can now instinctively ‘talk’ to one another, whether it’s via Bluetooth, NFC or Wi-Fi and as such, personal data is exchanged to positively influence and unify the user experience. For example, smartphones often connect to, and are used to monitor and manage other smart devices, such as smart home hubs, smartwatches, fitness trackers, even scales. While there are many benefits of leading a digitally led lifestyle, the more our lives are connected and the technology we use is linked, the more we open ourselves up to cyber threats. If a cybercriminal can gain access to one weak device within a unified network of devices, they can access all the associated devices, along with the sensitive data each device holds.

 

By adding fingerprint biometric authentication as a layer of security we can ensure the right person is accessing the right device, building or system. The chain of trust that fingerprint biometrics offers can be implemented to provide businesses and consumers with a far greater level of confidence in keeping their unified networks secure.

 

Fingerprint biometrics for the consumer home and the office

If we take a closer look at the consumer landscape, fingerprint biometrics can be used to authenticate access to homes through internet-enabled locks and utilities can be managed via home hubs, but consumers can now also use the internet to manage white goods to wash clothes, keep the fridge stocked and to remotely monitor dinner as it cooks in the oven.

 

However, the advantages of fingerprint biometric authentication applied to consumer environments can also be used to strong effect in corporate environments. Every business needs to be confident that their premises, belongings, data, stock and employees are safe, secure and protected. Fingerprint biometrics provide businesses with a flexible and affordable option to determine exactly who can gain entry to specific areas within a building, or to devices themselves. Removing the need for pin codes, passwords, fobs, swipe cards or keys – all of which can be lost, stolen, lent and forgotten and come at a cost.

 

The future is smart!

By applying fingerprint biometrics to smart biometric cards, authentication will put who we are back at the centre of authentication, rather than what we can remember, or write down in many cases. Providing an ideal balance between usability and security, as we carry our fingerprints with us. The added benefit of on-card biometric fingerprint technology means a fingerprint biometric profile can be securely stored on the card itself and not in several databases owned by the card issuers or device manufacturers – limiting potential exposure and risk.

 

This isn’t the only benefit of having one biometric smart card across a network of unified devices. Fingerprint enrolment itself can prove extremely time intensive, particularly across multiple devices, so a user-friendly process is imperative to adoption. By having just one card to authenticate all devices, users will only have to carry out the enrolment process once, rather than multiple times.

 

Whether we are aware of it or not, technology is becoming increasingly unified and if one device is targeted by a hacker, they have the potential to access a whole wealth of personal and corporate data held on a myriad of devices and networks. The reality is not just ‘if’, but ‘when’ these breaches will happen, and we must be ready for them by implementing heightened security practises – including fingerprint biometric authentication.

 

Biometric access control can seem futuristic, but in fact, offers many advantages over standard security solutions and is surprisingly affordable to roll out. Fingerprint biometrics present a unique opportunity to create a secure unified technology chain of trust that can safeguard against human error, laziness and cyber threats while making the authentication process easier than ever before.

 

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Technology

WHY DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION IN FINANCIAL SERVICES IS ABOUT CULTURE FIRST, TECH SECOND

FINANCIAL SERVICES

Stuart Templeton, Head of UK at Slack 

 

In today’s world, there’s no such thing as a ‘non-tech fin’. Every financial services company needs to consider itself a fintech in order to bring about the innovation, speed, and transparency that customers expect, and that’s why most are pumping significant investment into their digital transformation efforts.

Part of the challenge faced by traditional incumbent banks is that they rely on legacy core systems that stifle the speed of change. These core systems were not built in an API first era. The good news of course is that the obligations of PSD2 and open banking have gone some way to facilitate future innovation.

While legacy banking platforms do continue to present a technical challenge, the human one can be even greater. Traditional institutions are often faced with the prospect of rebuilding their culture from scratch in the pursuit of becoming digital-first. Like many industries, the fundamental challenge is one of coordination: the creation and maintenance of alignment over time.
Couple this with the fact that the expectations of today’s workforce are changing, then companies in the industry have a real job on their hands. A growing percentage are digital natives, and millenials – who greatly value trust and transparency – make up the largest proportion of the workforce today. So how have businesses in the industry historically ingrained culture, and how does this need to change?

 

Old ways of working – Team A, and Team B

Traditionally, the culture within large financial organisations has been separated by two distinct teams: operations, and tech. They are driven by seemingly opposing forces – one by GANTT charts and lofty business goals, the other by agile software delivery and customer obsession. Often, the two don’t even speak the same language, let alone collaborate and share ideas. Of course there are digital projects, but they aren’t the embodiment of the business, and often tech teams find themselves battling to get buy-in from internal stakeholders who are somewhat removed from those that drive innovation.

Part of the problem is even the notion of having digital transformation projects – there is no such thing in today’s environment – as digital is an overarching movement, and financial services institutions must think of themselves as ‘digital factories’ in order to see a marked change. It is no longer enough to deliver tech updates both internally and externally once every few months, with speed diminished by layers of bureaucracy.

What needs to happen, then, is that these two business segments need to find a way to blend that helps the old incumbents forget their binary ideas of teamship from time gone by and instead let them come together to become one unit. Flattening the established hierarchy so that workers from across all lines of the business can communicate, share ideas and identify problems in real-time is, after all, the key to addressing the transformation gap. They need to think on their feet and iterate as they go: it’s agile thinking, but permeating outside of just the software delivery cycle.

 

Eating the elephant – one bite at a time

The solution, in theory, is relatively simple: companies need to break open the silos of information created by technologies like email and ensure anyone within a business has access to the knowledge and skills they need to make their projects a success. But of course, in practicality, this can present a seemingly insurmountable task.

Using technology to create an agile and transparent working environment that fosters collaboration is key for many financial services organisations that want to see real tangible results from their investments. Digital natives such as TransferWise and Starling Bank are getting this right by prioritising a decentralised business model, one that empowers collaborative working and knowledge sharing that in turn has a positive impact on employee satisfaction and retention.

They do this through collaboration hubs that provide a rich, permanent, searchable record of knowledge for everyone in the organisation.

 

Looking ahead: Team ‘us’ 

Predictions are very difficult, but in five years’ time we can expect to see a greatly altered perception of the financial services industry. We can expect that digital communications tools will continue to play an integral role in the evolution of their workforce culture, helping to bring the right people together internally within the business, as well as strengthening relationships externally with partners and customers alike.

Ultimately, in order to keep learning and improving, banks need to ask questions of themselves as competition and customer demand becomes more fierce: “Why are we doing this?” “What’s the benefit here, and who are we considering in the pursuit of this goal?”

To answer these things, a culture of collaboration and openness is key – underpinned, of course, by the tools that empower it.

 

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Technology

DISPELLING BIOMETRIC MYTHS AND MISCONCEPTIONS

BIOMETRIC

By Lina Andolf-Orup, Head of Marketing at Fingerprints

Gangsters cutting off enemies’ fingers to access secret locations and spies lifting fingerprints from martini glasses – the imagination of the entertainment world has been running wild ever since biometrics entered the scene.

Couple that with the limitations of some early biometric solutions from fifteen years ago, still anchored in the minds of many consumers, and you have the perfect recipe for an apprehensive and uncertain public.

 

Thawing lukewarm attitudes with a biometric touch

The biometrics industry has made great strides in the last few years – something particularly true for smartphones. Fingerprint authentication has replaced PINs and passwords as the most popular way to authenticate on mobile, with 70% of shipped smartphones now featuring biometrics.

And it doesn’t end there. Many adjacent markets are now eager to benefit from the secure and convenient authentication solutions that biometrics offer. Take the payments industry, for example, where biometrics payment cards are currently gathering real momentum.

However, some consumers are still uneasy about accepting biometrics. A recent study found that 56% of US and EU consumers are concerned about the switch to biometrics as it’s not enough understood to be trusted.

Although attitudes are shifting for the better, stats like this demonstrate there is still some work to do to disprove common biometric myths and showcase just how smart today’s solutions really are.

 

Lina Andolf-Orup

Dispel, adopt, repeat

The evolution in consumer biometrics in the last two decades has been phenomenal. And today’s solutions are far more advanced and safe than many may think.

To help bring an end to the myths, let’s expose some of the most common misconceptions around biometrics.

Myth: Biometric data is stored as images in easy-to-hack databases.

A leading myth about biometrics is that when a fingerprint is registered to a device, it is stored as an image of the actual fingerprint. This image can then be stolen and used across applications. In reality, the biometric data is stored as a template in binary code – put simply, encrypted 0s and 1s. Storing a mathematical representation rather than an image makes hacking considerably more challenging. In most consumer applications, this template is also not stored in a cloud-based location, its securely hosted in hardware on the device itself for example in the smartphone, in the payment card. Thus, it stays privately with its owner.

Myth: Fingerprints can be easily replicated to ‘trick’ devices.

The internet is full of articles and videos that claim it is possible to use materials from cello tape to gummy bears to craft fingerprint spoofs and access biometric systems. Although there may have been a time where gummy bear spoofing was the go-to party trick, todays’ consumer biometric authentication solutions have too many technological defences, such as improved image quality and matching algorithms, to simply ‘trick’ devices. Plus, on top this, the criminal needs to have access to the person’s device where this fingerprint is enrolled e.g. smartphone, payment card, before he/she notices and blocks it. This is not scalable nor common, in comparison to gaining access to someone’s PIN code or skimming a contactless card.

Myth: Physical change will prohibit access to my device.

Although our irises don’t change as we age, our fingerprints can and our faces will. Does that mean we have to update our biometric devices every few months to capture these changes? Not quite! Unless there are drastic, sudden changes, the ‘self-learning’ algorithms in modern-day biometric systems are able to keep up with our developing looks.

 

Who you gonna call? Mythbusters!

These are just some of the common biometric myths and misunderstandings perpetuating in consumer mindsets. Thankfully, though, while we’re working hard to rid the world of the myths, belief in the value of biometrics is only expected to grow. But as solutions expand and diversify, the myth-busting fight will continue.

Fingerprints has been a leader of innovation in biometrics for the last two decades. We’re proud of the expertise and R&D we’ve been able to pour into our biometrics solutions to deliver stronger security and a better user-experience. To learn more about the most common biometric misconceptions and the modern-day technology that allows us to dispel them, download our eBook here.

 

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