Biometric technology deployed in SA could prove risky

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JOHANNESBURG - 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.

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.

– CAJ News

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