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Biometrics booming, but …



Biometric technology has seen phenomenal growth in South Africa with an estimated 80% of all access control solutions using fingerprint readers, but says KOBUS LE ROUX, National Sales & Marketing Executive, Jasco Security Solutions, failing to maintain these systems can result in security breaches.

The popularity of these solutions can be attributed to many factors, including the nature and size of many blue-collar workforces, for example in the mining industry. Biometrics has also been adopted successfully in white-collar environments as well, preventing fraudulent access to buildings and areas where sensitive information is stored. However, simply installing a biometric access control solution and then failing to maintain the system can lead to security breaches and unnecessary risk. Maintaining both the hardware and software of these solutions is critical in mitigating risk across all areas, including security, operations, health and safety and reporting.

Access control has long been used to ensure only authorised personnel are permitted into buildings or in certain areas. However, card-based solutions are prone to fraud, as cards can easily be stolen or switched, giving the wrong people access. For this reason, biometrics has grown in popularity across all industries and sectors in South Africa. These solutions assist not only with preventing access, but also with time and attendance and health and safety, ensuring people are not permitted to access hazardous areas. They are also an aesthetically pleasing solution, and can be integrated with CCTV solutions for a visual trail of access control.

However, while these solutions are highly effective, failure of any component in the system will compromise the integrity of multiple areas of the business, which introduces risk particularly if errors are not picked, as the risk is cumulative over time and the system may continue to degrade. The reality is that not enough emphasis is placed on the need to properly set up and maintain these solutions. Not only do the systems need to be setup, installed, integrated and configured correctly, they also, like any piece of equipment, need to be looked after. They are touched by hundreds of people every day, and may be situated outside, exposed to the elements, so deterioration in the effectiveness of the reader is likely over time if proactive maintenance is not conducted. Aside from the physical aspect, the software and the database need to be kept up to date for optimal functionality.

When it comes to the setup of biometrics systems, accurate registration of identifiers such as fingerprints or irises, depending on the solution used, is critical. If this process is not completed correctly, or the process is faulty, the system will deliver false positives or erratically deny access. This can permit unauthorised personnel from accessing areas, and prove frustrating for users who cannot access the areas they need, and also should access be routinely denied to permitted people, this can cause security to become lax and allow people in even if they are unauthorised.

The database also needs to be proactively maintained on an on-going basis, to ensure that registered personnel are kept up to date. This is particularly important in high staff turnover environments like contact centres. If, when staff leave the organisation, their information is not removed from the database, they will still be able to access the organisation. Similarly if and when the status of an employee changes, altering the areas they are allowed to access, the database must be updated to ensure access control follows their profile. If this is not done, it poses a security threat to organisations. Biometric databases also have a limit to the number of registrations they can efficiently process, and if this number is exceeded the system will slow down, stall and begin to fail, again opening the organisation up to risk. Administration of biometric access control databases must be meticulous to ensure maximum security and optimum functionality.

Maintenance of the hardware itself is equally important, since wear and tear on the readers will have an impact on their efficiency. Fingerprint readers are touched by hundred, if not thousands of people every day, and can build up a film of oil on them that can prevent them from reading properly. Exposure to harsh environments, such as hot, dusty or humid conditions, can cause damage to the system and its circuits, which again can cause erratic denial of access, if not outright failure of the solution. For these reasons, all of the physical components that make up a biometric system should be regularly assessed for mechanical or other failure.

Regular maintenance as often as use demands is critical to eliminating these challenges, optimising performance and extending the life of systems. Appointing a service provider with the appropriate technical skills and understanding of biometric technology and related systems ensures that biometric systems remain as secure as possible throughout their lifespan, mitigating risk and closing security loopholes for improved efficiency.


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Prepare for deepfake impact

Is the world as we know it ready for the real impact of deepfake? CAREY VAN VLAANDEREN, CEO at ESET SA, digs deeper



Deepfake technology is rapidly becoming easier and quicker to create and it’s opening a door into a new form of cybercrime. Although it’s still mostly seen as relatively harmful or even humorous, this craze could take a more sinister turn in the future and be at the heart of political scandals, cybercrime, or even unimaginable concepts involving fake videos. And it won’t be just public figures that bear the brunt. 

deepfake is the technique of human-image synthesis based on artificial intelligence to create fake content either from scratch or using existing video designed to replicate the look and sound of a real human. Such videos can look incredibly real and currently many of these videos involve celebrities or public figures saying something outrageous or untrue.

New research shows a huge increase in the creation of deepfake videos, with the number online almost doubling in the last nine months alone. Deepfakes are increasing in quality at a swift rate, too. This video showing Bill Hader morphing effortlessly between Tom Cruise and Seth Rogan is just one example of how authentic these videos are looking, as well as sounding. If you search YouTube for the term ‘deepfake’ it will make you realise we are viewing the tip of the iceberg as to what is to come.

In fact, we have already seen deepfake technology used for fraud, where a deepfaked voice was reportedly used to scam a CEO out of a large sum of cash. It is believed the CEO of an unnamed UK firm thought he was on the phone to his boss and followed the orders to immediately transfer €220,000 (roughly US$244,000) to a Hungarian supplier’s bank account. If it was this easy to influence someone by just asking them to do it over the phone, then surely we will need better security in place to mitigate this threat.

Fooling the naked eye

We have also seen apps making DeepNudes where apps were able to turn any clothed person into a topless photo in seconds. Although, luckily, this particular app has now been taken offline, what if this comes back in another form with a vengeance and is able to create convincingly authentic-looking video?

There is also evidence that the production of these videos is becoming a lucrative business especially in the pornography industry. The BBC says “96% of these videos are of female celebrities having their likenesses swapped into sexually explicit videos – without their knowledge or consent”.

recent Californian bill has taken a leap of faith and made it illegal to create a pornographic deepfake of someone without their consent with a penalty of up to $150,000. But chances are that no legislation will be enough to deter some people from fabricating the videos.

To be sure, an article from The Economist discusses that in order to make a convincing enough deepfake you would need a serious amount of video footage and/or voice recordings in order to make even a short deepfake clip.

Having said that, In the not-too-distant future, it may be entirely possible to take just a few short Instagram stories to create a deepfake that is believed by the majority of their followers online or by anyone else who knows them. We may see some unimaginable videos appearing of people closer to home – the boss, our colleagues, our peers, our family. Additionally, deepfakes may also be used for bullying in schools, the office or even further afield.

Furthermore, cybercriminals will definitely use such technology to spearphish victims. Deepfakes keep getting cheaper to create and become near-impossible to detect with the human eye alone. As a result, alt that fakery could very easily muddy the water between fact and fiction, which in turn could force us to not trust anything – even when presented with what our senses are telling us to believe.

Heading off the very real threat

So, what can be done to prepare us for this threat? First, we need to better educate people that deepfakes exist, how they work and the potential damage they can cause. We will all need to learn to treat even the most realistic videos we see that they could be a total fabrication.

Secondly, technology desperately needs to develop better detection of deepfakes. There is already research going into it, but it’s nowhere near where it should be yet. Although machine learning is at the heart of creating them in the first place, there needs to be something in place that acts as the antidote being able to detect them without relying on human eyes alone.

Finally, social media platforms need to realize there is a huge potential threat with the impact of deepfakes because when you mix a shocking video with social media, the outcome tends to spread very rapidly and potentially could have a detrimental impact on society.

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A career in data science – or your money back

The Explore Data Science Academy is offering high demand skills courses – and guarantees employment for trainees



The Explore Data Science Academy (EDSA) has announced several new courses in 2020 that it says will radically change the shape of data science education in South Africa. 

Comprising Data Science, Data Engineering, Data Analytics and Machine Learning, each six-month course provides vital digital skills that are in high demand in the market place.  The full time, fully immersive courses each cost R60 000 including VAT. 

The courses are differentiated from any other available by the fact that EDSA has introduced a money back promise if it cannot place the candidate in a job within six months of graduation and at a minimum annual starting salary of R240 000.

“For South Africans with drive and aptitude, this is the perfect opportunity to launch a career in what has been called the sexiest career of the 21stcentury,” says Explore founder Shaun Dippnall.

Dippnall and his team are betting on the explosive demand for data science skills locally and globally.

 “There is a massive supply-demand gap in the area of data science and our universities and colleges are struggling to keep up with the rapid growth and changing nature of specific digital skills being demanded by companies.  

“We are offering specifically a work ready opportunity in a highly skills deficient sector, and one which guarantees employment thereafter.”

The latter is particularly pertinent to young South Africans – a segment which currently faces a 30 percent unemployment rate. 

“If you have skills in either Data Science, Data Engineering, Data Analytics or Machine Learning, you will find work locally, even globally. We’re confident of that,” says Dippnall.

EDSA is part of the larger Explore organisation and has for the past two years offered young people an opportunity to be trained as data scientists and embark on careers in a fast-growing sector of the economy.  

In its first year of operation, EDSA trained 100 learners as data scientists in a fully sponsored, full-time 12-month course.  In year two, this number increased to 400.  

“Because we are connected with hundreds of employers and have an excellent understanding of the skills they need, our current placement rate is over 90 percent of the students we’ve taught,” Dippnall says. “These learners can earn an average of R360 000 annually, hence our offer of your money back if there is no employment at a minimum annual salary of R240k within six months.

“With one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world – recently announced as a national emergency by the President – it is important that institutions teach skills that are in demand and where learners can earn a healthy living afterwards.”

There are qualifying criteria, however. Candidates need to live in close proximity (within one hour commuting distance), or be prepared to live, in either Johannesburg or Cape Town, and need to be between the ages of 18 and 55. 

“Our application process is very tough. We’ll test for aptitude and attitude using the qualifying framework we’ve built over the years. If you’re smart enough, you’ll be accepted,” says Dippnall.

To find out more, visit

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