Biometrics on the Front End

When will American banks begin implementing new technology?

January 2, 2013Security Today released an article written by Phil Scarfo about the benefits of implementing biometrics in user-facing applications today. Emphasizing that biometrics is the only true way of knowing which user is accessing the system, Scarfo enthuses that biometric applications heighten security with a better assurance of identity than passwords or key cards and the like. Historically, traditional biometric systems, while attractive in concept, have been wrought with performance issues due to requiring unobstructed contact with the sensor and the fingerprint surface – meaning any moisture or even dryness can cause high failure rates. However, today with the implementation of multispectral imaging, biometrics has become a viable option for a reliable, convenient, and secure authentication method:

This more effective technology is based on the use of multiple spectrums of light and advanced polarization techniques to extract unique fingerprint characteristics from both the surface and subsurface of the skin. Subsurface capability is important because the fingerprint ridges seen on the surface of the finger have their foundation beneath the surface of the skin, in the capillary beds and other sub-dermal structures. Unlike surface fingerprint characteristics, which can be obscured during imaging by moisture, dirt or wear, the “inner fingerprint” lies undisturbed and unaltered beneath the surface. When surface fingerprint information is combined with subsurface fingerprint information and reassembled in an intelligent and integrated manner, the results are more consistent, more inclusive and more tamper resistant.

Scarfo then gives some examples of the reputation multispectral imaging fingerprint sensors have gained in some large industries, including banks:

Brazil’s second largest state-owned bank, Caixa Econômica Federal (CAIXA), is currently deploying 3,500 biometric-based Diebold ATMs. Fingerprint readers are replacing the PINs that bank customers have historically used to authenticate their identity and access their accounts. With multispectral imaging biometrics, CAIXA customers now simply insert their card and touch the fingerprint reader to conveniently withdraw their funds and be on their way. There is no PIN to remember and no training required.

Besides CAIXA, Itautec is also deploying thousands of ATMs with multispectral imaging fingerprint sensors for one of the largest banks in Latin America. ATMs aren’t the only places biometrics are facing customers and streamlining banking security – in countries like India mobile biometric systems are being used to further financial inclusion and public distribution goals. In South Africa, multispectral imaging sensors are being used to combat identity fraud in banking transactions.
Next, Scarfo poses the question:

After considering these examples, all in use today, American banks need to ask: What form of authentication will provide us with identity assurance, convenience and a compelling ROI? Biometrics is the only technology that assures identity and knowing “who” to a high degree of certainty. Biometrics also is unique in its ability to raise the bar on security without adding complexity for the end user.

To read the full article on Security Today’s website, click here.