At the moment, most banks in South Africa can access the Home Affairs National Identification System (HANIS) to confirm the identity of clients through biometric fingerprint matching.
This collaboration between banks and Home Affairs, which dates back to March 2010, is estimated to prevent fraud of some R322 million a month, or over R3 billion per year.
Specifications introduced by VISA in September last year, however, is upping the role of biometrics in the customer verification game.
The new specification enables the use of fingerprint, palm, voice, iris or facial biometrics with chip card transactions.
This first-of-itskind technology framework is designed to work with the EMV® (Europay, MasterCard, Visa) chip industry standard to help ensure open, globally interoperable solutions.
With VISA’s architecture, fingerprints are securely accepted by a biometric reader, encrypted, and then validated.
The specification supports “match-on-card” authentication where the biometric is validated by the EMV chip card and never exposed or stored in any central databases.
Banks can, however, choose to validate the biometric data within their own secure systems for transactions occurring in their own environments, such as ATMs.
According to Nick Perkins, divisional director: identity management at Bytes Systems Integration, the VISA announcement has created much excitement in the local industry.
“What VISA is doing, is a great case study for the use of biometrics to combat crime and save the economy considerable amounts of money,” he says.
“However, the full benefit of biometrics can only be realised with the right technology.”
In South Africa, most of the 40 000 fingerprint sensors in use at banks are HID Global’s Lumidigm product, which employs multispectral imaging technology to capture fingerprint patterns under the skin.
As a result, these sensors can read worn or damaged fingerprints, and can cope with wet or dirty hands.
This capability delivers virtually error-free authentication with a single touch of a finger.
The other great advantage is that the Lumidigm readers can detect liveness and fake finger (spoof) attempts.
It is furthermore a secure endpoint technology for un-manned biometric interactions, such as ATM and point of sale environments, giving banks the assurance that the technology can automatically do all the checks and balances needed to keep customers’ money safe.
“South Africa’s rollout of smart ID cards has created the need for a solution that can authenticate a person, quickly and accurately, against the biometric details stored on the ID card’s chip,” says Nick.
Responding to this need, Bytes and HID Biometrics recently launched a combination fingerprint and contactless card reader that uses the Lumidigm technology to perform multi-factor identification with any contactless smartcard.
“All our banking, retail, telco, healthcare and government clients have to be able to confirm the identity of individuals to provide the services they do, while at the same time reducing fraud. The new technology we offer meets this need,” says Nick.