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Unlocking future of security

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With smartphones increasingly using biometric authentication as a theft deterrent, the potential for such techniques – which rely on the natural, inherent features of a person like their fingerprint, voice or face to confirm their identity – to become the standard in online and device security is plain to see. This is particularly clear in a world where people have been coached into implementing multiple long and complex passwords, which they are then told they must change regularly to avoid hacks. Forgotten passwords are a common bugbear: so much so that 93 per cent of consumers and banking professionals already favour biometrics over passwords and PINs in consumer financial services, according to a survey by Oxford University and MasterCard. Indeed, according to research by Technavio, the mobile biometrics market is forecast to grow by more than 79 per cent by 2021.

The first line of device defence

Devices are so often the first-line of defence for organisations and, with the new GDPR law coming into force in May next year, it has never been more important to keep sensitive online data secure. It is therefore entirely logical to look to develop a security protocol that doesn’t rely on something as fallible as the human memory. While deeper security solutions are required to guarantee the protection of business-sensitive information at a network level, devices like Toshiba’s latest X-Series, which boast biometric features such as fingerprint sensors and iris recognition are becoming a requirement for many organisations looking to minimise the threat at device-level. Similarly, Windows Hello offers Windows 10 users biometric options to simply and securely unlock their device via its facial or fingerprint recognition capabilities. The ability to combine these tools with passwords for two or three-factor authentication enhances protection further.

Advancing to voice and beyond

The evolution of biometrics has been rapid since fingerprint sensors became a popular feature in smartphones in 2013, and this is now expanding to areas including voice recognition and full-face scanning. One sector leading the way is the banking industry, where large corporations are utilising voice recognition on their banking platforms in a bid to improve security. Leading national banks such as HSBC have introduced voice ID authentication systems for an easier yet more secure log-in experience for customers. While passwords and PIN codes are already subjected to a countless number of dedicated hacking efforts aimed at prising open knowledge-locked information, biometric data is a trickier, less clear-cut and subsequently a more difficult security protocol to beat. Around 150 million people have already registered their voiceprints for authentication at contact centres, and Opus Research predicts this number will soar to 550 million by 2020.

Elsewhere, iris scanning has been deployed globally for several years as part of the transition to biometric passports for international travel – confirming passenger identities and helping to crack down on counterfeit passports. There is significant potential for iris, and even facial, recognition to become a key component in such industries – even more so as wearable devices such as smart glasses begin to infiltrate the workplace and enable real-time biometric scanning for the wearer.

Once the technology is fully consolidated, it is evident that biometrics could likely become the automatic choice for first-level security. While not quite yet a fail-safe security tool – as security firms often seek to prove – almost two-thirds of consumers already want to be able to use a biometric scan to authorise in-store payments, according to Worldpay. This demonstrates rapid and progressive adoption of biometrics security, which in turn will drive greater development within the realm of biometric security solutions.

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Samsung unleashes the beast

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Most new smartphone releases of the past few years have been like cat-and-mouse games with consumers and each other. It has been as if morsels of cheese are thrown into the box to make it more interesting: a little extra camera here, a little more battery there, and incremental changes to size, speed (more) and weight (less). Each change moves the needle of innovation ever-so-slightly. Until we find ourselves, a few years later, with a handset that is revolutionary compared to six years ago, but an anti-climax relative to six months before.

And then came Samsung. Probably stung by the “incremental improvement” phrase that has become almost a cliché about new Galaxy devices, the Korean giant chose to unleash a beast last week.

The new Galaxy Note 9 is not only the biggest smartphone Samsung has ever released, but one of the biggest flagship handsets that can still be called a phone. With a 6.4” display, it suddenly competes with mini-tablets and gaming consoles, among other devices that had previously faced little contest from handsets.

It offers almost ever cutting edge introduced to the Galaxy S9 and S9+ smartphones earlier this year, including the market-leading f1.5 aperture lens, and an f2.4. telephoto lens, each weighing in at 12 Megapixels. The front lens is equally impressive, with an f1.7 aperture – first introduced on the Note 8 as the widest yet on a selfie camera.

So far, so S9. However, the Note range has always been set apart by its S Pen stylus, and each edition has added new features. Born as a mere pen that writes on screens, it evolved through the likes of pressure sensitivity, allowing for artistic expression, and cut-and-paste text with translation-on-the-fly.

(Click here or below to read more about the Samsung Galaxy S Pen stylus) Samsung Galaxy S9 Features)

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SA ride permit system ‘broken’

Despite the amendments to the National Land Transport Act, ALON LITS, General Manager, Uber in Sub Saharan Africa, believes that many premature given that the necessary, well-functioning systems and processes are not yet in place to make these regulatory changes viable.

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The spirit and intention of the amendments to the National Land Transport Act No 5  (NLTA), 2009 put forward by the Ministry of Transport are to be commended. It is especially pleasing that these amendments include ridesharing and e-hailing operators and drivers as legitimate participants in the country’s public transport system, which point to government’s willingness to embrace the changes and innovation taking place in the country’s transport industry.

However, there are aspects of the proposed amendments that are, at best, premature given that the necessary, well-functioning systems and processes are not yet in place to make these regulatory changes viable.

Of particular concern are the significant financial penalties that will need to be paid by ridesharing and e-hailing companies whose independent operators are found to be transporting passengers without a legal permit issued by the relevant local authority. These fines can be as high as R100 000 per driver operating without a permit. Apart from being an excessive penalty it is grossly unfair given that a large number of local authorities don’t yet have functioning permit issuing systems and processes in place.

The truth is that the operating permit issuance system in South Africa is effectively broken. The application and issuance processes for operating licenses are fundamentally flawed and subject to extensive delays, sometimes over a year in length.  This situation is exacerbated by the fact that it is very difficult for applicants whose permit applications haven’t yet been approved to get reasons for the extensive delays on the issuing of those permits.

Uber has had extensive first-hand experience with the frustratingly slow process of applying for these permits, with drivers often having to wait months and, in some cases more than a year, for their permits.

Sadly, there appears to be no sense of urgency amongst local authorities to prioritise fixing the flawed permit issuing systems and processes or address the large, and growing, backlogs of permit applications. As such, in order for the proposed stringent permit enforcement rules to be effective and fair to all role players, the long-standing issues around permit issuance first need to be addressed. At the very least, before the proposed legislation amendments are implemented, the National Transport Ministry needs to address the following issues:

  1. Efficient processes and systems must be put in place in all local authorities to allow drivers to easily apply for the operating permits they require
  2. Service level agreements need to be put in place with local authorities whereby they are required to assess applications and issue permits within the prescribed 60-day period.
  3. Local authorities need to be given deadlines by which their current permit application backlogs must be addressed to allow for faster processing of new applications once the amendments are promulgated.

If the Transport Ministry implements the proposed legislation amendments before ensuring that these permit issuance challenges are addressed, many drivers will be faced with the difficult choice of either having to operate illegally whilst awaiting their approved permits and risking significant fines and/or arrest, or stopping operations until they receive their permits, thereby losing what is, for many of them, their only source of income.

As such, if the Ministry of Transport is not able to address these particular challenges, it is only reasonable to ask it to reconsider this amendment and delay its implementation until the necessary infrastructure is in place to ensure it does not impact negatively on the country’s transport industry. The legislators must have been aware of the challenges of passing such a significant law, as the Amendment Bill allows for the Minister to use his discretion to delay implementation of provisions for up to 5 years.

Fair trade and healthy competition are the cornerstones of any effective and growing economy. However, these clauses (Section 66 (7) and Section 66A) of the NLTA amendment, as well as the proposal that regulators be given authority to define the geographic locations or zones in which vehicles may operate, are contrary to the spirit of both. As a good corporate citizen, Uber is committed to supplementing and enhancing South Africa’s national transport system and contributing positively to the industry. If passed into law without the revisions suggested above, these new amendments will limit our business and many others from playing the supportive roles we all can, and should, in growing the SA transport and tourism industries as well as many other key economic sectors.

What’s more, if passed as they currently stand, the amendments will effectively limit South African consumers from having full access to the range of convenient transport options they deserve; which has the potential to harm the reputation and credibility of the entire transport industry.

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