Bio­met­ric tech­nol­ogy de­ployed in SA could prove risky

African Times - - News - AKANI CHAUKE

THE use of bio­met­rics is set to go main­stream in South Africa, as Home Af­fairs and lo­cal banks roll out ma­jor iden­ti­fi­ca­tion projects.

How­ever, not all bio­met­rics tech­nolo­gies are equal, and some may come back to bite the en­ter­prises rolling them out.

This is the warn­ing of in­dus­try ex­pert, Mar­ius Coet­zee, who cau­tioned that “the wrong tech­nol­ogy in the wrong en­vi­ron­ment ac­tu­ally in­creases risk.”

“Bio­met­rics cer­tainly presents a com­pelling use case across fraud and risk man­age­ment, se­cu­rity and ac­cess con­trol, so ma­jor en­ter­prises are look­ing

to har­ness bio­met­rics in a broader way,” said Coet­zee, who is Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer of Ideco, the South African iden­tity man­age­ment ex­perts.

“But it’s im­por­tant that the ap­pro­pri­ate sen­sors are used, backed by the right al­go­rithms, or risk can ac­tu­ally be in­creased,” Coet­zee added.

Ca­pac­i­tive sen­sors, which in some mar­kets are ap­pro­pri­ate and fit for use. How­ever, the ex­pert said, South Africa’s en­vi­ron­ment is con­ducive to

cre­at­ing static elec­tric­ity, which can quickly blow the sen­sor. Op­ti­cal sen­sors, which typ­i­cally use light to il­lu­mi­nate the fin­ger­print tip and so read light and dark ar­eas, are more ap­pro­pri­ate to South African con­di­tions. While the new Home Af­fairs’ Au­to­mated Bio­met­ric Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Sys­tem (ABIS) sys­tem will seam­lessly process True Re­flec­tive Imag­ing (TRI) sen­sors im­ages, oth­ers in South Africa are rolling out Multi-Spec­tral Imag­ing (MSI) scan­ners. TRI de­liv­ers crisp, good qual­ity im­ages with ob­vi­ous con­trast. MSI is de­signed to use var­i­ous wave­lengths of light dur­ing fin­ger­print cap­ture.

Ideco Labs set out to com­pare the ac­cu­racy of the two tech­nolo­gies. In con­clu­sion, the com­pany said with in­ad­e­quate scan­ner tech­nol­ogy and weak al­go­rithms, the risks of fraud and of crim­i­nals il­le­gally ac­cess­ing ar­eas are in­creased, rather than de­creased.

“We tested the strength of var­i­ous al­go­rithms and it’s fright­en­ing to see how bad some are. We’ve seen up to 25 per­cent false minu­tiae added by flawed or weak al­go­rithms,” Coet­zee said.

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