Now lenders grap­ple with bio­met­rics

The East African - - OUTLOOK - By MARYANNE GICOBI The Eastafrican

AT LEAST 2.5 per cent of the peo­ple who try to use bio­met­rics for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion fail be­cause the ma­chines can­not read their fin­ger­prints.

The chal­lenge is par­tic­u­larly com­mon among se­nior cit­i­zens whose fin­ger­prints have worn out over time. Banks and gov­ern­ment in­sti­tu­tions that pay pen­sion and so­cial wel­fare al­lowances, have to re­sort to com­ple­men­tary doc­u­ments, such as iden­tity cards or pass­ports, and sig­na­tures.

A re­port by Fi­nan­cial Sec­tor Deep­en­ing Africa ti­tled Bio­met­rics in Dig­i­tal Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices, says banks are more likely to rely on third-party iden­ti­fi­ca­tion to meet cus­tomer due dili­gence re­quire­ments in most trans­ac­tions.

Finca Uganda, a mi­cro­fi­nance de­posit-ac­cept­ing in­sti­tu­tion, and Equity Bank Uganda have em­braced bio­met­ric tech­nol­ogy while Crane Bank says it plans to in­stall it in its ATM net­work to elim­i­nate use of pass­words and se­cret codes.

In Kenya, Stan­dard Char­tered, Equity and Guar­anty Trust Banks have bio­met­ric ac­cess sys­tems that al­low cus­tomers to use their fin­ger­prints to log into their ac­counts.

Banks are bet­ting on bio­met­rics to curb fraud, see­ing as fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions in the re­gion have re­ported losses run­ning into mil­lions of dol­lars through cy­ber crime. The loss in Kenya is above $15 mil­lion.

But, tech­nol­ogy spe­cial­ists worry about the dan­gers that come with bio­met­rics, as they are not change­able like pass­words, in the event the sys­tem is com­pro­mised. Banks, there­fore, need other el­e­ments to pre­vent fraud.

In Kenya, cy­ber se­cu­rity is at the top of banks’ board­room agenda, es­pe­cially after the global ran­somware at­tack dubbed Wan­nacry in May this year.

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