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.
Seedstars seeks tech to reverse land degradation in Africa
A new partnership is offering prizes to young entrepreneurs for coming up with innovations that tackle the loss of arable land in Africa.
The DOEN Foundation has joined forces with Seedstars, an emerging market startup community, to launch the DOEN Land Restoration Prize, which showcases solutions to environmental, social and financial challenges that focus on land restoration activities in Africa. Stichting DOEN is a Dutch fund that supports green, socially-inclusive and creative initiatives that contribute to a better and cleaner world.
While land degradation and deforestation date back millennia, industrialization and a rising population have dramatically accelerated the process. Today we are seeing unprecedented land degradation, and the loss of arable land at 30 to 35 times the historical rate.
Currently, nearly two-thirds of Africa’s land is degraded, which hinders sustainable economic development and resilience to climate change. As a result, Africa has the largest restoration opportunity of any continent: more than 700 million hectares (1.7 billion acres) of degraded forest landscapes that can be restored. The potential benefits include improved food and water security, biodiversity protection, climate change resilience, and economic growth. Recognizing this opportunity, the African Union set an ambitious target to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land by 2030.
Land restoration is an urgent response to the poor management of land. Forest and landscape restoration is the process of reversing the degradation of soils, agricultural areas, forests, and watersheds thereby regaining their ecological functionality. According to the World Resources Institute, for every $1 invested in land restoration it can yield $7-$30 in benefits, and now is the time to prove it.
The winner of the challenge will be awarded 9 months access to the Seedstars Investment Readiness Program, the hybrid program challenging traditional acceleration models by creating a unique mix to improve startup performance and get them ready to secure investment. They will also access a 10K USD grant.
“Our current economic system does not meet the growing need to improve our society ecologically and socially,” says Saskia Werther, Program Manager at the DOEN Foundation. “The problems arising from this can be tackled only if a different economic system is considered. DOEN sees opportunities to contribute to this necessary change. After all, the world is changing rapidly and the outlines of a new economy are becoming increasingly clear. This new economy is circular and regenerative. Landscape restoration is a vital part of this regenerative economy and social entrepreneurs play an important role to establish innovative business models to counter land degradation and deforestation. Through this challenge, DOEN wants to highlight the work of early-stage restoration enterprises and inspire other frontrunners to follow suit.”
Applications are open now and will be accepted until October 15th. Startups can apply here: http://seedsta.rs/doen
To enter the competition, startups should meet the following criteria:
- Existing startups/young companies with less than 4 years of existence
- Startups that can adapt their current solution to the land restoration space
- The startup must have a demonstrable product or service (Minimum Viable Product, MVP)
- The startup needs to be scalable or have the potential to reach scalability in low resource areas.
- The startup can show clear environmental impact (either by reducing a negative impact or creating a positive one)
- The startup can show a clear social impact
- Technology startups, tech-enabled startups and/or businesses that can show a clear innovation component (e.g. in their business model)
Also, a specific emphasis is laid, but not limited to: Finance the restoration of degraded land for production and/or conservation purposes; big data and technology to reverse land degradation; resource efficiency optimization technologies, ecosystems impacts reduction and lower carbon emissions; water-saving soil technologies; technologies focused on improving livelihoods and communities ; planning, management and education tools for land restoration; agriculture (with a focus on precision conservation) and agroforestry; clean Energy solutions that aid in the combat of land degradation; and responsible ecotourism that aids in the support of land restoration.
The dark side of apps
Mobile device security threats are on the rise and it’s not hard to see why. In 2019 the number of worldwide mobile phone users is forecast to reach 4.68 billion of which 2.7 billion are smartphone users. So, if you are looking for a target, it certainly makes sense to go where the numbers are. Think about it, unsecured Wi-Fi connections, network spoofing, phishing attacks, ransomware, spyware and improper session handling – mobile devices make for the perfect easy target. In fact, according to Kaspersky, mobile apps are often the cause of unintentional data leakage.
“Apps pose a real problem for mobile users, who give them sweeping permissions, but don’t always check security,” says Riaan Badenhorst, General Manager for Kaspersky in Africa. “These are typically free apps found in official app stores that perform as advertised, but also send personal – and potentially corporate – data to a remote server, where it is mined by advertisers or even cybercriminals. Data leakage can also happen through hostile enterprise-signed mobile apps. Here, mobile malware uses distribution code native to popular mobile operating systems like iOS and Android to spread valuable data across corporate networks without raising red flags.”
In fact, according to recent reports, 6 Android apps that were downloaded a staggering 90 million times from the Google Play Store were found to have been loaded with the PreAMo malware, while another recent threat saw 50 malware-filled apps on the Google Play Store infect over 30 million Android devices. Surveillance malware was also loaded onto fake versions of Android apps such as Evernote, Google Play and Skype.
Considering that as of 2019, Android users were able to choose between 2.46 million apps, while Apple users have almost 1.96 million app options to select from, and that the average person has 60-90 apps installed on their phone, using around 30 of them each month and launching 9 per day – it’s easy to see how viral apps take several social media channels by storm.
“In this age where users jump onto a bandwagon because it’s fun or trendy, the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) can overshadow basic security habits – like being vigilant on granting app permissions,” says Bethwel Opil, Enterprise Sales Manager at Kaspersky in Africa. “In fact, accordingly to a previous Kaspersky study, the majority (63%) of consumers do not read license agreements and 43% just tick all privacy permissions when they are installing new apps on their phone. And this is exactly where the danger lies – as there is certainly ‘no harm’ in joining online challenges or installing new apps.”
However, it is dangerous when users just grant these apps limitless permissions into their contacts, photos, private messages, and more. “Doing so allows the app makers possible, and even legal, access to what should remain confidential data. When this sensitive data is hacked or misused, a viral app can turn a source into a loophole which hackers can exploit to spread malicious viruses or ransomware,” adds Badenhorst.
As such, online users should always have their thinking caps on and be more careful when it comes to the internet and their app habits including:
- Only download apps from trusted sources. Read the reviews and ratings of the apps as well
- Select apps you wish to install on your devices wisely
- Read the license agreement carefully
- Pay attention to the list of permissions your apps are requesting. Only give apps permissions they absolutely insist on, and forgo any programme that asks for more than necessary
- Avoid simply clicking “next” during an app installation
- For an additional security layer, be sure to have a security solution installed on your device
“While the app market shows no signs of slowing down, it is changing,” says Opil. “Consumers download the apps they love on their devices which in turn gives them access to content that is relevant and useful. The future of apps will be in real-world attribution, influenced by local content and this type of tailored in-app experience will lead consumers to share their data more willing in a trusted, premium app environment in exchange for more personalised experiences. But until then, proceed with caution.”