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Biometrics helping South African banks to save millions


The Department of Home Affairs’ partnership with the South African banking industry is helping to save millions of dollars in fraud and loss prevention through the implementation of biometrics.

The partnership, which was initially signed by the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC) and the Department of Home Affairs in 2010, provides banks with access to the Home Affairs National Identification System (HANIS) to authorize the identities of both existing and prospective clients.

The national ID database uses fingerprint biometrics to facilitate the secure identification of all South African citizens.

In January, Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba, confirmed that seven banks are using the HANIS verification service for fraud prevention.

Gigaba also estimated the partnership potentially saves R322 million (US$21.23 million) a month in fraud and loss prevention, with a total savings of over R3 billion (US$200 million) a year.

Meanwhile, banking transaction volumes continue to increase, with a current total of 2.5 million transactions a month.

“While the figures are difficult to quantify, it’s clear that this is a great case study for the use of biometrics to combat crime and save the economy considerable amounts of money,” said Nick Perkins, divisional director of identity management at South African company Bytes Systems Integration. “However, none of these benefits would be achievable without the right biometric technology. To work in the real world, a solution like this must be able to deliver instant response, and that’s why Lumidigm fingerprint sensors from HID Global are the preferred technology of virtually all the banks.”

In a report in ITWeb, Perkins says that there are approximately 30,000 of HID Global’s Lumidigm fingerprint sensors in use at South African banks.

Lumidigm’s multispectral imaging technology reads fingerprint patterns underneath an individual’s skin, explains Perkins.

According to the company, Lumidigm scanners can read worn or damaged fingerprints, as well as handle wet or dirty hands, which ensures nearly 100% error-free authentication.

“Banks cannot sacrifice customer experience to meet their need to improve security, so it’s very important that the authentication process is quick and accurate,” said Perkins.

Another advantage is that Lumidigm scanners can distinguish a real fingerprint from a fake that might have been created using compromised biometric data.

“The Lumidigm readers come with a huge advantage here because they can detect whether a fingerprint is attached to the legitimate owner’s living finger,” says Perkins. “That means that even if the HANIS database were to be hacked, stolen fingerprint data could not be used by a criminal to gain fraudulent access to privileges and accounts.”

Earlier this week, HID Global showcased its expanded Lumidigm biometrics portfolio at the connect:ID conference in Washington, D.C.

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