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Don’t confuse biometrics with strong authentication

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The information we want to keep private is increasingly at risk, but no-one wants that information protected by cumbersome passwords. FRANS LABUSCHAGNE, Entersekt country manager UK and Ireland, believes that the stage is set for large-scale biometrics.

As our world becomes more digitalised, the information we want to keep private is increasingly at risk – and yet no-one wants that information protected by cumbersome security measures which do not fit in with our pace of living. As such, the stage seems to be set for the large-scale adoption of super-convenient biometric technology, especially on the mobile. Different forms of biometric security have already begun working their way into the banking and payments industries; among these are face, fingerprint, iris, palm, vein and voice.

Everyone with a stake in digital banking security has been tracking the rapid developments in biometrics and debating the technology’s usefulness in the battle against cybercrime. There is little doubt that biometrics will play an important role in securing mobile services, particularly when viewed from the perspective of user convenience. But it is also fair to point out that biometrics can place enterprises and their customers at risk if deployed as the sole means of user identification and transaction authentication.

To effectively secure high-risk transactions, banks and other financial service providers need a strong base layer of security, such as that offered by Entersekt’s Transakt platform, to which biometrics can be added via a flexible plug-in as required for increased risk levels or improved user experience.

Unlike usernames and passwords, which we can change at will, we only have one set of biometric data. If this falls into hackers’ hands, it becomes of no use to us for authentication purposes. The consensus amongst industry experts, such as the FIDO Alliance, is that we must limit the exposure of our private biometric data by not sharing it, and keeping it instead locked down on our personal devices. Even then, our biometrics are still only as safe as the technology of our devices allows them to be. Devices can be rooted or jailbroken, and their owners often engage in risky behaviour.

Attackers have already figured out how to bypass many of today’s biometric solutions, and the fight for supremacy between financial service providers and hackers will only intensify over time. Biometrics can play a valuable role in user verification, but for the strong authentication of users and sensitive transactions, more than one authentication factor must be in place. The three possible factors are knowledge (something the user knows), possession (something the user has), and inherence (something the user is). This means that even so-called dual biometrics, which entails using, for example, both a fingerprint and a “selfie” for authentication, does not qualify as strong authentication, because both mechanisms are of the same factor.

Identity theft and account takeover strategies are increasing in sophistication and impact, making the balance between user experience and security more complex – and more challenging – than ever. As is proved almost daily, no single security measure will hold for long against persistent attacks from cybercriminals. It is only by layering cutting-edge technologies such as digital certificates with biometrics that an institution will be able to stand up to fraud.

Selecting an authentication solution that combines the highest level of protection with the lowest possible user friction will ensure that financial service providers meet regulatory requirements, as well as user demands, as industry changes advance from all sides.

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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