HomeBlogA finger on the pulse for biometric security solutions

A finger on the pulse for biometric security solutions

August 8, 2018
As your business grows, you will need to put in place the right security solutions to stay one step ahead of modern threats.

As your business grows, you will need to put in place the right security solutions to stay one step ahead of modern threats. With advances in technology, biometric security systems are the obvious choice, due to their superior accuracy, improved accountability, reduced administrative costs and added convenience. Here are some factors SMEs need to consider when choosing their biometric security system.

The audience demographic

Understanding the population that will be using your biometric security system will help you decide which type of system should be implemented. Do you need to scan a select group of people or the masses?

If the group size is large, the system must be able to store many biometric data samples. Is the objective of the system to verify users' identities or to pick out one individual from a crowd? Will users be supervised as they go through the system? Are users likely to be cooperative or is there a good chance that some will try to hack the system? Answers for each of these questions will help narrow down the right system.

For example, the Technopreneur Circle is a co-working space housing a large number of startup entrepreneurs in the heart of the city, managed by Vertex Ventures. Vertex Ventures decided to use a document-less registration management system to provide access to the facility.

This system issues a software key within members' mobile device, avoiding the logistical worries of physical keycards. Entrepreneurs can now enter and exit when they choose and the administration team is kept informed with the backend management system.

Placement of sensors

If your biometric security system is going to be placed outdoors, it needs to be sensitive and robust enough to withstand the wear and tear from the environment. High and low temperatures affect not only the sensors, but also the human body and users' behaviour.

For example, when it is very cold, users may be less inclined to remove gloves for a fingerprint scan, while in very sunny conditions, users may be squinting into the camera or there could be shadows cast over the face, making facial recognition harder.

Other environmental factors come into play, such as dust and sand getting in the ridges of fingerprints or water/ humidity affecting biometric readings.

When the biometric security system is placed indoors, most of these problems are avoided. However, consideration should be taken for operational procedures. For example, scientists who wish to enter a secure cleanroom are likely to be wearing gloves (impeding fingerprint scanners), masks (impeding voice or facial recognition scanners) or safety goggles (impeding iris scanners).

Level of accuracy

There are two main metrics for determining accuracy. The False Acceptance Rate (FAR) is the probability that the biometric system authorises someone it should not.

The False Rejection Rate (FRR) is the probability that it rejects someone it should not. A FAR of 0.1 per cent means that on average, for every 1000 people that are successfully authorised, there will be one false acceptance. An FRR of 0.1 per cent means that on average, for every 1,000 people that are denied, there will be one that should have been accepted.

Knowing the FAR and FRR of your biometric system is important, based on your organisation's needs. False acceptance is an issue in situations where security is of utmost importance, such as having a biometric security system at the entrance to your top-secret R&D laboratory.

False rejection becomes a hassle when an authorised user has to make several attempts or is denied access completely, such as at the entrance to an office.

Speed of technology

Biometric systems with different FAR and FRR levels have different speeds for scanning users' biometric data and making accurate authentication.

While waiting for 10-15 seconds to gain access to an office is not a problem for most executives, waiting 10-15 seconds per authentication would result in traffic flow problems for authorities at immigration checkpoints, who need to verify thousands of people.

Fortunately, there are a myriad of on-premise and cloud options available to improve the speed of biometric systems, depending on the environment, organisation requirements, population and other factors.

Scalability to offer multi-factor authentication

Since each person possesses unique features, biometric systems are able to identify individuals with a high accuracy level.

However, in some cases, added security is required. With a multi-factor biometric system, security accuracy levels increase exponentially. SMEs today are stepping up using 2-Factor Authentication to reduce cyber threats, such as identity and information theft, through the outsourcing of OneKey systems.

The OneKey platform combines authentication of its physical token and SMS, through the generation of a one-time password (OTP).Since the SMS expires in minutes, the OTP cannot be harvested and reused later. Two-step verification forces users to go through an additional step before gaining access to sensitive data and secured web pages. It is also useful to ensure authorised physical interaction between business parties.

All banks in Singapore are legally obliged to use 2-Factor Authentication. Typically, users first log in to their online account using their regular login credentials. Upon clearing the first authentication stage, users are required to key in a six-digit number, which is generated by a physical token provided upon applying for the bank account. This number changes several times a minute and adds an extra level of security.

The customer experience

When integrated with IOT technology, there is the potential for biometric solutions to go beyond just authentication and verification, to augment and enhance everyday lives.

OCBC Bank's Holland Village branch has incorporated real-time facial recognition to identify its Premier Banking customers.

They are immediately recognised as they approach the bank's lounge without being required to stop and look at the camera, and are then greeted by their preferred name. This unobtrusive approach ensures that customers feel at ease with OCBC's digital efforts, while prioritising the personalisation of services for a pleasant customer journey.

For example, if a customer is known to enjoy a cup of water with a slice of lemon in it, accompanied by a CLEO magazine, the same items will be served automatically without the customer having to request for them.

Many companies are already using biometric solutions, often with integration to other IOT solutions. This will only increase in the future, so that biometric solutions become part of our everyday lives. Will you be ready for such a future?

This article was first published by The Business Times on 7 August 2018.

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