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The proof is in the fingerprint: how biometrics are proving security doubters wrong

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has estimated that the cost of cybercrime to the global economy sits at a depressing $US 450 billion. At the corporate level, the percentages are even more worrying with the 2015 Identity Theft Resource Centre Breach Report finding that U.S data breaches alone hit the 40% mark. Then, to really add a bite to the flavour, the 2015 Cost of a Data Breach study by IBM and the Ponemon Institute found that the average cost of a data breach had risen by 23%.

On the individual level, the price of fraud continues to rise. The same study above established that the average cost paid for a lost or stolen record with sensitive information rose by 6% from $US145 in 2014 to $154 in 2015. In South Korea, more than 70% of people had their personal data stolen or their credit cards compromised, in one month. In the US, identity theft impacted the lives of more than 16.6 million people. The cost of this loss? $US24.7 billion.

The need to protect data has never been greater and is only set to rise as figures point to growing cybercrime networks and more organised attacks. Individuals, organisations and governments are under pressure to find ways of keeping their information secure, ways that cannot be easily hacked or tampered with and one of these is biometric technology.

Originally labelled as that far left field solution which would only work in high-budget Hollywood movies, biometrics has shifted into the mainstream over the past few years. Not only has it become a standard at many South African banks, adding in that extra layer of identity recognition, but it has been adopted by a number of sectors which include healthcare and government. And the results, according to the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), have been impressive.

The DHA anti-fraud initiative launched along with the banking industry, has prevented more than R300 million in monthly losses. The programme started in 2009 when banks were given access to the Home Affairs national identification system and this was then blended with biometric verification technology. Consumers use the biometric scanners, their details are matched with the national system and their identities are confirmed thanks to the unique nature of each and every fingerprint on the planet. The solution has been an unparalleled success for banks, government and, of course, the consumer.

Possibly one of the original disruptive technologies, biometrics has found its way onto CEO, Minister and sector to-do lists around the world. In the United Kingdom biometrics has been implemented on residence permits as part of their new immigration laws and smart ID cards are currently being debated in the House of Lords. In Australia, biometrics are in use at the Australian Taxation Office and biometric data is now required as part of border control. While it’s clear that South Africa is in the lead when it comes to the implementation of the technology, the rest of the world is following suit.

Biometrics is not the uncharted Wild West or the strange cousin who lives next door, it is one of the fastest growing markets in the world because it works. It is also predicted to be worth around US$23.3 billion by 2019 with a CAGR of 20.8%. This is one market which is on a steady trajectory thanks to its potential and its ability to reduce fraud and data theft by significant amounts. The proof as they say, is not so much in the pudding as it is in the fingerprint…