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Why we need biometrics

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Last year, the insurance and banking industries were two of the largest hit by fraud. It is for this reason that sufficient security measures like biometrics need to be put into place, says STAN KHAN.

With internet and technology creating an ever-interconnected world, the amount of information businesses need to manage to remain secure is staggering.

One particular issue the private sector has to compete with is increasing levels of fraud – especially identity fraud.

Globally, the number of people to fall victim to identity fraud in 2013 was at a massive 13.1 million. To grasp the severity of this, someone was a victim of identity fraud every two seconds.

In South Africa’s insurance industry, in 2013, 30% of all insurance claims were estimated to be fraudulent, amounting to about R15-billion. In banking, the South African Banking Risk Information Centre reckons that in the first nine months of 2013, the industry losses from fraud related to credit cards amounted to R367-million. Clearly fraud is a problem and will continue to be so until sufficient measures are taken to combat it.

Considering it is a well-known fact that our green ID books are easily falsified, sectors like banking and insurance desperately need added levels of security for not only their own security, but for their customers’ too. This is where biometrics comes in. While somebody can forge an ID book, it is significantly more difficult, near impossible, to forge a fingerprint.

Biometrics are anything that is inherent to an individual and can be used to uniquely identify them. This can be anything from fingerprints, to the retina and iris, to even the sound of your voice. While the origins of fingerprint identification crept up over a century ago, particularly in law enforcement, biometrics are becoming increasingly relevant in the corporate space.

The ability to accurately identify someone, be it a customer or client, is of critical importance. But biometrics are only useful when done properly. A lot of companies implement biometrics, but are not ensuring that they capture good quality prints, making it easier for fraudsters to take advantage. When partnering with a biometrics company for business security purposes, one has to be as accurate as possible to ensure the most secure and trusted modus operandi.

Beyond the fingerprint, signature authentication is another biometric that is full of promise. With this, we have the technology to accurately identify a person and, more specifically, documents. Biometrics have evolved to the point where the style of handwriting, pressure used on the pen, as well as time taken to sign, are all unique to the individual and can be identified. This has far reaching applications in the business world as fraud can be as simple as forging a signature.

The simple answer is that biometrics are the way forward when gunning for business security. It is not only the banking and insurance industries who fall victim to identity fraud, it is you, it is me, it is everybody. The faster we move towards biometrics as a system of identification, the faster we can deal with the ludicrously high levels of fraud experienced every day in almost every sector.

* Stan Khan, Managing Director of Muvoni Biometric and Smartcard Solutions (MBSS)

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA

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