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When biometrics go bad

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Inadequate biometrics systems could be creating a false sense of security in banks, security estates and office blocks, and in effect rolling out a red carpet to criminals, writes MARIUS COETZEE, MD of Ideco.

Biometrics-based security devices, in particular fingerprint readers, are now widely in use across South Africa. But in many cases, they could be creating a false sense of security among enterprises, and worse – serving to enable criminal activities.

This is because not all fingerprint readers are created equal. Although all fingerprint readers use minutiae points to match fingerprints, not all have the ability to detect the difference between real minutiae of a fingerprint and spoofed minutiae. Typically, enterprises investing in fingerprint readers believe the biggest risk facing them is a scenario in which a fraudster or criminal replicates someone else’s finger or fingerprint, and uses it to gain access to a premises or to authenticate their identity. But because most fingerprint readers are manned by cashiers, tellers or security guards, the chances are slim that the fraudster will have an opportunity to introduce an entire fake finger into the process unnoticed.

A lesser known risk, and one far easier for villains to employ, is to fake or ‘spoof’ minutiae. The simplest methods are simply to wind thin thread around the fingertip, or to introduce a series of cuts to the fingerprint. This creates scores of new minutiae points, increasing the risk that the spoofed fingerprint will be a close enough match to that of an authorised person on the estate or bank database. No one should underestimate the ingenuity of criminals – they know the reader uses minutiae points to match them against a profile, and they also know that by introducing a lot of false minutiae points, they will increase the chances of their matching an existing profile on the system. Only the most advanced technology has the ability to differentiate between typical cuts and true minutiae to determine whether a fingerprint has been spoofed or not.

Performance requirements and consequential recourse

Another major risk lies in the fingerprint system’s performance and standards: in many cases, the images they produce are of a low quality and characterised by noise, or they simply do not meet the standards required by law enforcement agencies and courts. This means that in the case of fraud or a criminal opening a bank account using such a fingerprint reader, the biometric records and images generated cannot be processed against the SAPS criminal record system, or indeed most international law enforcement systems.

Equally concerning is the fact that these systems produce images that are of a quality too poor to be admissible as evidence in a court of law. The mere fact that many fingerprint readers used today are not compliant to international standards for evidence and criminal investigation defeats the entire objective of using fingerprints for proof of identity in the FICA or RICA process.

Inadequate biometrics-based identification and security systems therefore, could not only give villains access to accounts and assets; they could also help them to avoid prosecution.

Organisations need be very careful in their choice of biometric devices deployed for customer identification, security and protection of assets, to ensure they are compliant with all key standards and legislation, and that the systems deliver the security they promise.

When selecting systems, organisations need to ask:

–          Is it fit for purpose at the site, and for effective governance, risk and compliance?

–          Does it fully adhere to regulatory requirements from the process of taking the customer aboard through to post-event audits?

–          Can it be spoofed by added minutiae caused by thread, cuts, wrinkles and blisters?

–          Does the technology discard false minutiae and only process true minutia?

–          Is the data collected by the device, including all records and images, fully compliant to all international standards?

–          Can this data be processed against the SAPS criminal record system?

–          Is this data accepted as evidence in a court of law?

Always remember that mass adoption does not constitute great technology, but rather great sales effort. A simple “show me how accurate it is”, is always recommended.

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Huawei Mate 20 Pro matches camera benchmark record

A benchmark by DxOMark sees the triple-cam handset tie with the P20 Pro for best smartphone camera on the market.

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The Huawei Mate 20 Pro has come out top in a camera benchmark test that assesses all aspects of smartphone camera performance.

DxOMark, which conducts rigorous hardware testing and is trusted as an industry standard for image quality measurements, has just released the results of its in-depth analysis of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro smartphone camera. 

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is the Chinese manufacturer’s latest top-end device. Building on the P20 Pro’s camera technology, the Mate 20 Pro comes with a Leica-branded triple-camera setup, but swaps its stable-mate’s monochrome camera for a super-wide-angle module, offering a 35mm-equivalent focal length range from 16 to 80mm—the widest of all current smartphone cameras.

The handset is in direct competition with the Apple iPhone XS Max, the Google Pixel 3 XL, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, among other. How does it fare?

“With a total photo score of 114, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro ties the record-setting score of its cousin, the P20 Pro,” says DxOMark. “The overall Photo score is calculated from sub-scores in tests that examine different aspects of its performance under different lighting conditions.”

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro achieves a photo score of 114 points. In stills mode, the Mate 20 Pro’s triple camera captures images with good target exposure and a wide dynamic range, recording both good highlight and shadow detail even in difficult high-contrast situations. Noise levels are well under control down to low light levels, and the camera’s white balance system and colour rendering settings produce a pleasant colour response in almost all circumstances.

At 97 points, the Mate 20 Pro is very close to the best for video as well, thanks to a fast and smooth autofocus system with good tracking performance, accurate white balance as well as pleasant colour rendering, and low levels of noise, especially in bright shooting conditions. Our testers also liked the exposure system’s ability to adapt quickly and smoothly to changes in illumination.

It was not all good news. DxOMark also had some criticism for the device.

Click here to read about the drawbacks of the Mate 20 Pro camera, and other positives.

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SA car wins
Dakar Rally

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The final stage of Dakar 2019 drew to a close at the bivouac in Pisco, Peru, and saw Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa’s Nasser Al Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel bring home their South African-built Toyota Hilux for an historic victory. Not only was it a first win for Toyota, but it was also the first petrol-powered car to win the Dakar in the South-American era.

The Qatari driver ensured his French navigator, who turned 43 years old on Thursday, 17 January, received a great birthday present, when the pair arrived at the final time control of Dakar 2019 with teammates Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz in close formation. The two Toyota Hilux crews completed the entire stage together, as De Villiers / Von Zitzewitz waited nearly 55 minutes for the leaders to start the stage, in order to shadow them to the finish.

The emotions bubbled over for Team Principal Glyn Hall, who found himself without words as his two crews drove into the media area after the time control. “This victory was long overdue,” he finally managed, before being swamped in a sea of well-wishers.

The winning driver, however, was much more vocal: “We are so happy to win the Dakar – not only for ourselves, but also for Toyota and the entire Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team. Everyone has worked so hard for so long, and really deserve this. Thank you for letting us drive this car.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing SA led Dakar 2019 from the first to the last stage, with Al Attiyah/Baumel drawing first blood, before handing the mantle to De Villiers / Von Zitzewitz during stage 2. But then a disastrous Stage 3 saw the Qatari retake the lead – a lead he didn’t relinquish despite some of the toughest stages yet seen on any South-American Dakar.

“When we first heard that the rally was going to take place only in one country, we were skeptical,” said Hall after regaining composure. “But the organisers made sure that this year’s race will long be remembered as one of the toughest tests in the last decade.”

Al Attiyah / Baumel’s victory at Dakar 2019 means that Toyota Gazoo Racing has now won both of the world’s toughest automotive races – the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the DakarRally.

Click here to read Glyn Hall’s comment on winning the Dakar Rally, as well as the rankings.

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