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Biometrics going beyond security

By PINE PIENAAR, Managing Director of Afiswitch

Globally, digital transformation and consumer acceptance of biometrics as a measure to increase security protocols are both having a significant impact on driving the rapid adoption of biometrics. However, it must be recognised that the opportunities are far greater than just for security.

In fact, as widespread adoption of digital technologies such as cloud computing, machine learning (ML) and Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow in mainstream markets, we are seeing faster innovation in the biometrics space too. And, while uses and uptake for mobile and multimodal identity management solutions will still grow significantly in the coming years, parallel to this, we are also seeing exciting developments in solutions that meet new uses/applications – offering consumers increased convenience and enhanced experiences across more mainstream markets.

As we closely follow developments across global markets, I’ve identified three uses/applications where I believe biometric-based solutions will increasingly be deployed:

#1: Biometrics to introduce paperless airport transfers

There have been a number of developments and pilot programmes rolled out in airports across the world; aimed at capturing, storing and making use of an individual’s biometrics as a form of authenticating a traveller’s identity. The move to biometrics can be underpinned by two key drivers; increased security at/through airports and improving the customer/traveller experience.

From a security point-of-view, it is well recognised that there is a global phenomenon with fake documents, including passports, and linked to identity theft. However, the introduction of multimodal biometric solutions – which generally involve an Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) as the basis and offers far more accurate identity verifications. And when these systems are securely integrated with appropriate databases, they are also able to deliver reliable results instantly.

Biometrics-based security protocols also create opportunities to streamline and speed up check-ins, customs and border control, and transfers at airports. This can reduce customer/traveller stress points and frustrations – of having to stand in queues and produce multiple documents every time they travel – and thereby significantly improve their overall experience.

While it is uncertain if biometrics will ever replace the need to apply for and/or renew one’s passport – advances in biometrics make a strong business case for frictionless authentication and paperless airport transfers. However, the aviation and travel industries aren’t alone in cottoning onto “frictionless authentication”…

#2: Frictionless authentication for payments

Driven by a heightened sense of competition – from traditional and non-traditional players, the banking industry in many markets around the world is arguably among the earlier adopters of new tech, as there is a strong direct correlation between offering innovation solutions and enhanced customer experience and retention.

Added to this, given the propensity of risk in financial services, this industry has a greater need to be able to offer customers strong security protocols – and are compelled by regulation to ensure their customers’ data and their money is protected.

It’s not surprising then that banks are starting to incorporate biometrics-based solutions into their business (from fingerprint capturing for identification authentication and as a security metric to protect a customer’s accounts) to fingerprint and facial recognition as a frictionless extra layer of security to authenticate and approve payments, etc. To demonstrate this massive market potential, research suggests that there will be over 2.6 billion biometric payment users by 2023.

#3: Identity management takes on behavioural biometrics with digital signature verification

Behavioural biometrics go hand-in-hand with digital and frictionless identity management – the only difference is that it’s the process or application of authenticating an individual based on their unique behavioural traits, rather than their physical characteristics.

The earliest noted behavioural trait is the signature and even digital signatures have a history of development that dates back to the late 1970s. It should be noted that a digital signature still makes use of physical biometrics, and most commonly fingerprints, whereby unique bar codes are created from the fingerprint pattern or image.

Due to widespread digital adoption and as more businesses and consumers alike, look to automate and streamline as many processes and/or tasks, its not surprising that digital signatures as a form of biometrics is currently receiving a lot more attention.

Adoption is largely dependent on a case-by-case growing need for effective authentication, security and control linked to specific actions. For example, using a digital signature as an extra line of security to authenticate a user’s identity during a digital transaction. However, the acceptance and adoption rate of digital signatures will strongly be influenced by cyber laws and industry specific regulation of individual markets.

These are only a few of the uses/applications for biometrics that are starting to emerge and receive a lot of attention, though there are many more currently being explored and across varying markets and industries, from travel to healthcare, for example. What is interesting to note though is that all of these uses and applications are still dependent on the one basic principle of biometrics – to accurately identity an individual – and then to address a need or action. It is a fascinating space and we will continue to keep you updated on the big movers and developments.

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Time is running out for Microsoft SQL Server 2008

Companies are urged to update from the dated database management software as it reaches the end of its support, writes BRYAN TURNER.

The 11-year-old Microsoft SQL Server 2008 database management software is reaching the end of its support on 9 July. The applications that use databases running on this software will be at risk of security and stability issues.

On self-managed databases, upgrading to the latest database version comes with a lot of risks. Many IT departments within companies go by the motto: “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it”.

Microsoft made it very clear that it would not be updating SQL Server 2005 after its extended support date and even left it vulnerable to Spectre and Meltdown by not releasing patches for the dated version.

Updating SQL Server versions may seem daunting, but the benefits far outweigh the effort it takes for a migration. In the last major version update, SQL Server 2016 introduced simpler backup functionality, database stretching, and always-encrypted communications with the database, to name just three features.

While backing up the database may be the last thing on the typical database administrator’s mind, it’s become increasingly important to do so. In SQL Server 2008, it’s clunky and causes headaches for many admins. However, in SQL Server 2016, one can easily set up an automated backup to Azure storage and let it run on smart backup intervals. Backing up offsite also reduces the need for disaster recovery for onsite damage.

Database stretching allows admins to push less frequently accessed data to an Azure database, automatically decided by SQL Server 2016. This reduces the admin of manually looking through what must be kept and what must be shipped off or deleted. It also reduces the size of the database, which also increases the performance of the applications that access it. The best part of this functionality is it automatically retrieves the less accessed records from Azure when users request it, without the need for manual intervention.

Always-encrypted communications are becoming more and more relevant to many companies, especially those operating in European regions after the introduction of GDPR. Encryption keys were previously managed by the admin, but now encryption is always handled by the client. Furthermore, the keys to encrypt and decrypt data are stored outside of SQL Server altogether. This means data stored in the database is always encrypted, and no longer for the eyes of a curious database manager. 

The built-in reporting tools have also vastly improved with the addition of new reporting metrics and a modern look. It includes support for Excel reports for keeping documentation and Power BI for automated, drag-and-drop personalised reporting. Best of all, it removes the dreaded Active X controls, which made the reporting in a webpage feel very clumsy and bloated in previous versions.

A lot has changed in the past ten years in the world of SQL Server database management, and it’s not worth running into problems before Microsoft ends support for SQL Server 2005.

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Local apps to feature in Huawei’s App Gallery

Huawei’s mobile app store, the HUAWEI AppGallery, will soon feature a multitude of apps and designs by local developers. The company says this is part of its drive to promote South African digital talent and include more useful apps for Huawei smartphone users. HUAWEI AppGallery and HUAWEI Themes are pre-installed on all the latest Huawei and Honor devices.

“South African consumers are increasingly wanting more apps that are relevant to their unique circumstances, addressing issues they experience regularly – such as load shedding or safety concerns – but also apps that celebrate South Africa’s multitude of cultures and this vibrant country,” says Lu Geng, director of Huawei Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa Region.

Akhram Mohamed, chief technology officer of Huawei Consumer Business Group South Africa, says: “Huawei is committed to catering to the needs of South African consumers, but we also know that we do not have all the answers. For this reason, we aim to work closely with South African developers so that we can give our users everything that they need and want from their devices. At the same time, we also hope to create an open ecosystem for local developers by offering a simple and secure environment for them to upload content.”

Huawei Mobile Services was launched in South Africa in June last year. Since then, both the HUAWEI AppGallery and HUAWEI Themes – which features tens of thousands of themes, fonts and wallpapers that personalise user’s handset – have become increasingly popular with the local market. Even though it is a relatively new division of Huawei, there has been a great increase in growth; at the end of 2018 Huawei Mobile Services had 500 million users globally, representing a 117% increase on the previous year.

Explaining what differentiates the HUAWEI AppGallery from other app stores, Mosa Matshediso Hlobelo, business developer for Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa says: “We use the name ‘HUAWEI AppGallery’ because we have a dedicated team that curates all the apps in terms of relevance and ease of use and to ensure that there are no technical issues. Importantly, all apps are also security-checked for malware and privacy leaks before being uploaded on to the HUAWEI AppGallery.”

Huawei recently held a Developers’ Day where Huawei executives met with South African developers to discuss Huawei’s offering. 48 developers registered their apps on the day, and Huawei is currently in discussions with them with the eventual aim of featuring the best apps and designs on HUAWEI AppGallery or HUAWEI Themes. The Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa Team at Huawei plans on making Developers’ Day a quarterly event and establishing a local providers’ hub, where developers can regularly meet with Huawei for training on updates to programmes and offerings.

“We have a very hands-on approach with our developers, and hope to expand that community so we can become an additional distribution channel for more developers and expose them to both a local and a global audience,” says Geng. “For example, we regularly feature apps and designs from local developers on our Huawei social media pages, and do competitions and promotions. We want to do everything we can to make our Huawei users aware of these local apps and upload them. This will encourage the growth of the developer community in South Africa by giving developers more opportunities to generate revenue from in-app purchases.”

* Developers who would like their apps featured on the HUAWEI App Gallery, or designs featured on HUAWEI Themes, should visit https://developer.huawei.com or email Huawei Mobile Services on sacloud@huawei.com.

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