Friday, September 28, 2012

Biometric Borders

If yesterday's theme was Biometrics and Children, today's seems to be Biometric Borders.

New procedures for Schengen visa (Zawya - UAE) - The new procedure will introduce the collection of biometric data such as fingerprint scan and digital photo in order to prevent false identifications, identity theft and fraud.
See also: Dubai, UAE: Fingerprints needed for Schengen visa (with some background on Schengen)

Ukraine: We hope to speed up visa facilitation with EU (Kyiv Post) - Biometric passports are a key step in the process.

United States: Immigrants hope to work legally (Times Free Press)
Within just a month 82,000 young immigrants nationwide applied to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. So far, close to 64,000 have scheduled appointments for fingerprinting and photographing — which ICE refers to as “biometrics” — and 29 applications had been approved as of Sept. 13.

You say you want a revolution?

Australia: Customs eyes tech future beyond SmartGate (IT News)
The service issued a request for information (RFI) seeking solutions that "do not rely [on] simply implementing more of the current technology and associated traveller processing infrastructure"
Broad options sought by the RFI cover solutions to automate traveller border processing, verify biometric identity, supply traveller information, reduce queues, perform behavioural assessments, and offer “non-intrusive traveller concealment detection".

Argentina streamlines cross-border travel with biometrics

Argentina strengthens migratory control (InfoSurHoy)
When a passenger places his or her finger on the fingerprint reader at the airport, the system instantaneously sends a message to the National Registry of Persons (RENAPER), the agency responsible for protecting the individual identity rights of Argentine residents.

“If the person who placed their finger on the reader does not match the individual shown in the documents, the system blocks the process and alerts the inspector,” Duval said. “We’ve already had some cases like this.”

When processing foreigners, the system compares the data with a record of their previous entries and departures in Argentina.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Dubai smart e-Gate system at Dubai International Airport will be officially launched on January 1

New Smart e-Gate system to start January 1 (Gulf Today)
The new system has been installed to cater to the growing number of passengers using Dubai airport. It can gather passport information within seconds and capture biometric data using a hi-tech camera. The data is then compared with existing records for any discrepancies.

Saudi Arabia automating teacher time-and-attendance with fingerprint biometrics

Saudi Arabia: Teachers to be fingerprinted to ensure attendance (Saudi Gazette)
It looks like this is as much about streamlining paperwork and payments as actually keeping track of whether or not teachers are showing up.

Illinois: School cafeteria biometrics

Parent gives thumbs down to finger scans (The Telegraph - Alton, IL)

Essentially the same article has appeared perhaps thousands of times in local papers over the last few years.

What makes this one interesting is the process of adoption and communication was unusual and is more explicitly dealt with here than in other articles.
"We adopted the philosophy of 'every child, every day,'" Moore said. "This means that every child in the district starts every day with something to eat."

By serving breakfast to every student, the cafeterias must provide the equivalent number of meals served over nine lunch periods in a short span of time each day.

"In order to process that many students quickly, we needed to come up with a different system," Moore said. "It also allows the students to get through lunch lines faster and have more time for recess."
Read the whole thing. It's short.

Biometric deployment winners and losers

This article describes a fingerprint system implementation that isn't going too well.
Northtown is one of 20 child-care centers in central Mississippi taking part in a Mississippi Department of Human Services pilot program. DHS administers the state's child-care assistance, or certificate, program for poor families and pays providers like Kay who accept the certificates. Starting Sept. 4, parents and guardians of children receiving a subsidy must scan their finger when dropping off or picking a child up from day care.
Kay and other child-care center operators say implementing the new system has been nothing short of nightmarish and that the problems are eating into revenues. Although DHS trained workers on how to use the machines, training parents is left up to the individual centers, meaning that a member of Kay's staff must remain on standby at all times to help people work the machine. Also, because the system relies on unique finger scans, staff members cannot override the system or check the kids in and out when parents forget. When that happens, providers might not get paid.
No analysis of why state subsidized day care centers are being asked to prove that they are actually providing the service for which they are paid (using a parent fingerprint). No analysis of why it is a burden to have someone on standby to facilitate/control/monitor who picks up and drops off children. No explanation of how or why parents are allowed to forget to check their children in and out of the child care facility.

A system as lax as the one obliquely described in the article is, of course, likely to become a magnet for fraud. That's bad. What is much worse is that a situation where no one is keeping track of who is taking children away from a child care facility is a tragedy waiting to happen.

If the subsidized day care system in Mississippi was ticking along flawlessly, it's hard to imagine someone deciding that it would be a great idea to implement more rigorous identity management measures. That's just not the way things work. Frequently, biometric systems are brought in to shore up flaws in a system.

The costs and benefits of shoring up flaws in a system, however, are unlikely to fall upon/accrue evenly throughout an organization. For example: The return on investment of a biometric time and attendance implementation is paid by those who benefited from a more lax system and accrues to the firm's owners. The people who lose out in the transition aren't necessarily right, but they aren't necessarily without power, either.

Without significant insight, it's easy for managers to get caught off guard by push-back from those whose interests are undermined by more efficient operation. This is where a good biometric system integrator can really do themselves and their customers a favor by understanding their customer's business and helping the customer to anticipate and mitigate obstacles to a successful implementation. It's not enough that a solution succeed on its technical merits as if deployed in a vacuum, though it must do that. It must also succeed operationally in support of the people who carry out the organization's objectives. Successful integrators meet customers where they are and leave them better off than they found them.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Canada and the US to require better ID from border crossers

Border law will demand travel docs from Canadians: Documents (Embassy)
Citizenship and Immigration Canada plans to introduce new legal rules that would force Canadians and Americans to present authorized travel documents such as passports when entering Canada, according to departmental notes.

Government documents obtained by Embassy under access to information legislation show the move, part of the perimeter security plan between Canada and the United States, will bring Canadian and American law closer.

Under the US Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, Canadians and others have had to pack official travel documents like passports since 2007 when they fly to the US, and since 2009 when driving or sailing there.

South Africa leading the way on government payments to individuals

Social Security And Welfare Payments Go Biometric (Fast Company)
In order to receive government aid, South Africans now have to get biometric finger and voice scans. It's high tech, cuts down on fraud, saves the government money... and is coming to the United States sooner than you'd think.
MasterCard is playing a large role in the South African effort...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012 Redux? AuthenTec to ditch non-Apple customers in 2013

AuthenTec to reportedly ditch non-Apple customers in 2013 (Apple Insider)
In an email to its customers, which includes Samsung, HP, Dell, Lenovo and Fujitsu, Apple acquisition AuthenTec reportedly said it will no longer be honoring orders come 2013, a source told Korean language website etnews.

The announcement may be an indication of what Apple plans to do with the company and its technology after purchasing the firm in July for $356 million. AuthenTec is well known for its work in fingerprint sensor tech and it was rumored that Apple might be looking to implement the biometric security asset into an upcoming iPhone.
It may be recalled that after Facebook bought,'s existing customers were left twisting.

This is always a tricky post merger call. Does Apple continue to sell a technology, at a hefty profit, to its competitors? How long would Apple's competitors live with that deal?

Apple seems to have made the call.

Kenya: Government signs contract for Canadian BVR's

Canadian firm to supply Kenya with voting kits (Xinhua)
The Kenyan government has finally signed a contract with the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC), for the supply of 15,000 Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) kits to enable the East African nation hold credible polls in 2013.

A statement from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) said on Tuesday the contract was inked on Monday evening in Nairobi by Finance Ministry Permanent Secretary Joseph Kinyua, CCC's Director David Olsen and IEBC's Chief Executive Officer James Oswago.

"The Canadian agency gave a written undertaking on the integrity and commercial standing of the firm," IEBC said in a statement issued in Nairobi.
Click here for the whole strange saga of the Kenya biometric voter register tender.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Ghana opts for biometric voter verification

EC orders 26,000 verification machines…For biometric verification (Ghanaian Chronicle)
“We have several samples of the verification machine in the office that we are going to use for piloting. The first piloting exercise will be done internally, I mean at the offices of the Electoral Commission in Accra. That exercise is slated for the first week of October. Following its success, we will then pilot it at some constituencies before the general elections,” noted Mr. Akumeah.

The biometric verification machine is a handheld machine used to ascertain that an individual ‘is who he says he is’ or ‘is who she says she is’. Biometric verification requires a biometric system or setup to operate in.
This makes a lot of sense because, by itself, biometric voter registration still allows for quite a few of the most common vote-rigging shenanigans.

SecurLinx & Qualiserve enter agreement in Brazil

SecurLinx Brasil and Qualiserve Technology Solutions enter into Exclusive Integration Partnership for Brazil (PRWeb Press Release

SecurLinx Brasil, a subsidiary of SecurLinx Holding Company (FRA: S8X) has completed a comprehensive integration agreement for its biometric identity management solutions in Brazil with Qualiserve Soluções Em Tecnologia. “This strong partnership with a recognized leader in the national marketplace demonstrates our commitment to gaining market share and rapidly increasing revenue in the next year. Together, we will ensure peak performance and the highest level of customer service for our Brazilian clients,” said Barry Hodge, CEO of SecurLinx Holding Company.

Under the terms of this agreement, Qualiserve will be the exclusive installer and IT system manager for SecurLinx Brasil, offering helpdesk and field maintenance services as needed. In cases where a client purchases a biometric identity management solution from SecurLinx Brasil and that client has an existing contract with a third party IT service provider, Qualiserve will act as a technical consultant and project manager on behalf of SecurLinx.

According to Davis Hodge, President of SecurLinx Brasil, “Qualiserve, with its impressive track record of tackling complicated large scale IT infrastructure deployments coupled with its market leading IT management services provided to some of the largest multinational and local corporations, is a perfect fit for SecurLinx.” Kleber Rodrigues, Founder and President of Qualiserve added, “We have spent considerable time evaluating both new and established biometric solutions providers on behalf of our customers and have determined that SecurLinx offers the most complete and robust products available in the market.”

About Qualiserve:
For over 10 years, Qualiserve has offered comprehensive IT infrastructure and systems management to some of the largest multinationals and local companies in Brazil. Additional services include web hosting, ERM, VoIP telephony, and cloud computing. The Company is headquartered in São Bernardo / São Paulo and has offices across Brazil, including Rio de Janeiro, Manaus and Santa Catarina.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Poland's Supreme Administrative Court rules against fingerprint biometrics for Time-and-Attendance

Poland: May An Employee Request Biometric Data? (Mondaq)
Poland's Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) has recently ruled that an employer is not entitled to collect employees' biometric data in the form of fingerprints in order to record employees' entrance and exits times, even if the employees consent.
There's that word again: consent.

But if the article is accurate, Poland's Supreme Administrative Court actually seems to be saying that, technically, worker's can't consent to fingerprint time-and-attendance in much the same way that children can't legally consent to certain acts.

I wonder what they would say if a firm wanted to raise wages with the money they saved by implementing a biometric time-and-attendance system.

Industry Report: Biometrics market in 2012 worth $7.59bn

'Biometrics market worth $7.59bn in 2012' Says Visiongain Report (Press Release via PRNewswire)
Visiongain's analysis indicates that the Biometrics market is set to be worth $7.59bn in 2012, as demand continues for advanced personal identification and verification systems for a range of military, governmental and civilian applications.

The Visiongain author of the Biometrics report comments that: 'Biometric technologies are an increasing viable prospect for both military and civilian purposes. With progressively increasing technological advances and codification of doctrinal usage, biometric technologies are set to fulfil a range of security demands. Despite defence cutbacks, the global biometrics market is to be both sustained and enhanced by the commercialisation of the technology, which is increasingly finding applications within the civilian marketplace, providing security from criminal enterprises and identity theft.'

Facebook consents to delete face recognition data of EU users

Facebook Agrees to Delete EU Facial-Recogniation Data (Bloomberg)
The owner of the biggest social-networking site has faced several European reviews over concerns a facial-recognition program that automatically suggests people’s names to tag in pictures breaches privacy rights.

Facebook Ireland “agreed to delete collected templates for EU users by Oct. 15” and to seek regulator consent “if it chooses to provide the feature to EU users again,” the Irish Office of the Data Protection Commissioner said in the conclusions to a review today.

Data-protection regulators from the 27-nation EU have been looking into Facebook’s facial-recognition feature.
The theme of the article is consent.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Kenya-Canada Kit Concord, Continued

Canada pledges to deliver BVR on time (Capital FM)

IEBC, Canadian firm to sign BVR kits deal (The Star)

The legal status of non-scientists processing DNA

Legal hurdles threaten to slow FBI's 'Rapid DNA' revolution ()PC Advisor)
What's more, the DNA Identification Act of 1994 passed by Congress gave the FBI the authority to establish its DNA index system, but didn't envision that DNA information would be uploaded to the FBI database from a police station using Internet-connected Rapid DNA equipment. The law covers only accredited DNA labs in use today, not the mobile Rapid DNA equipment that can be operated by non-technical personnel anywhere, according to Clark Jaw, an auditor at the FBI Laboratory for the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). It appears there needs to be a change to the DNA Identification Act to accommodate use of the new technology, he says.
See also: "Rapid" DNA: Not super rapid. Still really cool. More steak than sizzle.

Poland: Bank BPH plans to install vascular biometrics

BPH to use biometric identificators - Bank BPH plans to install biometric readers to identify patterns made by blood vessels in its clients' fingers, replacing the need for cards and PIN codes, reports Puls Biznesu. (Warsaw Business Journal)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Biometrics scares people, makes them happy.

Biometrics scares people* (Network World)
Perception of biometrics tends to be rather negative because it's personal and physical, says Lockheed Martin's biometrics division director.

How to find happiness in a world of password madness (PC World)
The beauty of biometrics is that you don’t have to remember anything at all, much less a complex password.

*Since I was a tad critical of Ellen Messmer's take on rapid DNA in the previous post it's only fair that I single her out for praise for this highly enjoyable and thorough article.

"Rapid" DNA: Not super rapid. Still really cool. More steak than sizzle.

FBI eager to embrace mobile 'Rapid DNA' testing (PC Advisor)
It's been the FBI's dream for years -- to do near-instant DNA analysis using mobile equipment in the field -- and now "Rapid DNA" gear is finally here.
Really!? Near instant? Mobile equipment? Are FBI agents are running around with hand held DNA devices that give instant feedback?

Not really.

According to the article, "...[T]he Rapid DNA device can spit out an individual's DNA data within 90 minutes... measures about 27-by-24-by-16 inches, costs about $245,000."

Compared to other biometric deployments, this isn't particularly rapid or mobile.

Though I've made some sport with rapid DNA in the past, there are some applications where only DNA analysis will do and the applications that government bodies have in mind for "rapid DNA" don't exactly lend themselves to breathless reporting or Gattaca* references.

First, the FBI wants faster and cheaper DNA analysis to help clear cold cases where the state possesses DNA evidence by comparing the DNA of arrestees with an evidence database.

We discussed this very point with Mike Kirkpatrick in a recent twitter Biometric Chat.
Q4: Then, if the Big Three of biometrics are Face, Finger/palm print & Iris – Where does DNA fit in?

A4: There's an ongoing multi-agency effort on rapid DNA, which will put a "quick" DNA capability at the booking stations. We should see this in the market within the next couple of years. It'll help solve alot of cases. DNA in many ways is the ultimate biometric but still has many privacy issues associated with it as well as the past relative slowness in getting results. It can prove someone innocent as easily as proving someone guilty, which is good as all in criminal justice should be searching for the truth. [ed. formatting edited to de-twitter the Q&A]
Then, there are other government ID applications where only DNA will suffice such as this one, having to do with immigration and whether certain individuals are related by family, described in a very interesting Computerworld article from about a year ago (blog post here).
One pent-up need for a rapid DNA analysis kit is coming for the Department of Homeland Security's citizenship and emigration services, according to Christopher Miles, biometrics program manager at DHS.
The uncomfortable realization that the government might be wasting a huge amount of time reading fraudulent documents and listening to lies was a lesson learned a few years ago in trying to help refugees in Kenya that wanted to emigrate to the U.S. In that instance, the U.S. government took about 500 DNA samples, did a lab analysis to verify family relationships, and found out 80% were fraudulent, Miles said.
If all you have is a DNA database or if you need to find out if two people are related, DNA is the only biometric modality that can help. In these cases, and compared to what went before it: 90 minutes really is fast; $1,500 per transaction (a guess) really is cheap; and something the size of a microwave oven really is mobile.

*The article's author, while suspected of the former, is innocent of the latter. As for Gattaca, I enjoyed the film but I can't believe it was released fifteen years ago: October 24, 1997.

SecurLinx Named Tier 1 Platinum Partner by iPulse Systems

Press Release:

SecurLinx Corporation joins forces with iPulse Systems to provide best in class solutions forbiometric access control in North and South America.

Morgantown, WV September 19, 2012

SecurLinx Corporation has been awarded Tier 1 Platinum Partner status for North America by iPulse Systems of Kempton Park, South Africa. SecurLinx-Brasil will enjoy the same designation for South America. The partnership will enable SecurLinx to integrate the iPulse product line into its access control middleware solutions. “Customers at the high end of security require an end-to-end solution including hardware and software that is completely integrated into their existing information technology infrastructure," stated Barry Hodge, CEO of SecurLinx. “We evaluated a number of potential suppliers and found iPulse to offer the most robust and interoperable solution available today.” The integration process has been completed and the systems are available for immediate delivery in both markets. The scalable solution is cost effective for a single door and capable of managing access for the largest facility or enterprise.

Gary Chalmers, CEO of iPulse Systems added, “As a specialist manufacturer of biometric hardware, iPulse Systems always looks for partners with an innovative and aggressive approach to high level integration into their software solutions when launching into a new market. SecurLinx have created a seamless solution that provides localized content for our internationally competitive hardware solutions.” “The iPB platform is robust, intelligent and extremely cost effective," continued Chalmers, who also added “We believe this combination of biometric hardware and software offers the best price to performance ratio available in the market today.”

About SecurLinx:

A wholly owned subsidiary of SecurLinx Holding Corporation (FRA: S8X) and located in Morgantown, West Virginia, SecurLinx is an advanced technology and software development company. The Company offers middleware products and systems applied to information sharing, secure access, and biometric identification. SecurLinx adds increased security, productivity, and seamless information management solutions in targeted markets where secure access to physical locations or information sharing networks is critical to the enterprise.

About iPulse Systems:

iPulse Systems is a South African based technology design company that specializes in developing biometric technology solutions at a hardware, firmware & SDK level for integration into best-of-breed existing software solutions, and where required, building niche market software solutions for specific vertical markets.

[End press release]

We're extremely pleased with the relationship we have built with the good people at iPulse and we look forward to what lies ahead.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Making voice biometrics more secure

Carnegie Mellon Voice Verification Technology Prevents Impersonators From Obtaining Voiceprints (India Education Diary)
Computer users have learned to preserve their privacy by safeguarding passwords, but with the rise of voice authentication systems, they also need to protect unique voice characteristics. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University's Language Technologies Institute (LTI) say that is possible with a system they developed that converts a user's voiceprint into something akin to passwords.

The system would enable people to register or check in on a voice authentication system, without their actual voice ever leaving their smartphone. This reduces the risk that a fraudster will obtain the person's voice biometric data, which could subsequently be used to access bank, health care or other personal accounts.

Ghana: Biometric registration for ex-pats and government workers abroad

Biometric Registration of Public Sector Workers and Pensioners (Modern Ghana)
The Government of Ghana, through the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning has embarked on an exercise to register all public sector workers and pensioners abroad.

The exercise is part of the government's policy to improve the payroll administration in the country.

All pensioners and public sector workers domiciled abroad, including Ex-service men, are to register in person at the nearest Consulate or Embassy by providing information and their biometric data which must include a passport size photograph, staff number, pension number, regimental number, date of birth, date of employment, ID number, retirement date and position held before retirement.

Australia: Progress on Ratifying Privacy Recommendations

Privacy reforms pass through lower House (ZDNet)
The proposed changes, some now four years old, are designed to tighten the rules on how personal information is sent outside of Australia, how personal information may be used for direct marketing, increase the protections provided to sensitive information, such as health records and biometric data, and provide the Privacy Commissioner with powers to allow him to apply civil penalties in cases where the Privacy Act has been breached.

US: Border biometrics make a difference

US-VISIT Proves That Biometrics Make A Difference (Homeland Security Today)
On February 6, 2012, a man we’ll call “Walter” arrived at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas after a trip to Panama and applied for admission as a returning lawful permanent resident. He presented a valid Mexican passport and a valid US Permanent Resident Card. Everything seemed to be in order and the young man breathed a little easier.

But when the Customs and Border Protection officer directed “Walter” to place both of his hands on the US-VISIT Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT) so all ten of his fingerprints could be scanned, “Walter” knew in his gut that he was in for a long day.
The full article is available here in HSToday's magazine viewer.

India: UID begins to incorporate iris, improves fingerprint results

UIDAI’s Iris Authentication proof of concept study successful (UIDAI Press Release - pdf)

The UIDAI has successfully conducted the proof of concept Iris authentication study in Mysore district of Karnataka. The study brought out the high accuracy levels (above 99.2%) achieved by iris authentication. A combination of iris and fingerprint authentication can further the goals of universal inclusion and pave the way for successful applications based on Aadhaar authentication.

The study was conducted in semi urban setting in Nanjangudtaluk in Mysore district of Karnataka between May 27th and July 30th 2012. 215,342 iris authentication transactions from 5833 residents were studied. 8 models of iris cameras through 6 different OEMs participated in this study.

This study has also brought out the specific improvement areas that biometric ecosystem needs to work upon to further improve the accuracy and coverage percentage. The detailed findings are documented in a report which is being published on UIDAI’s website. This will be followed by a workshop with the device vendors to guide them on the specific actions to be taken by them to improve algorithms and devices. UIDAI will then take up further field studies. These studies would also lead to formulation of iris device specifications for certification and deployment purposes.

It may also be noted that as a result of feedback to the biometric ecosystem, the performance of fingerprint authentication improved substantially from the time UIDAI conducted its first fingerprint authentication PoC to the last PoC. Same is expected in iris authentication domain too, which points that iris authentication has a scope of providing accuracy levels above 99.5%.

Monday, September 17, 2012

SecurLinx Announces Opening of Brazil Subsidiary

SecurLinx Holding Corporation (FRA: S8X) has continued its expansion plan with the establishment of SecurLinx Brasil.

Based in São Paulo, it will have primary responsibility for marketing biometric identity management solutions for business and law enforcement across Brazil, but will also operate throughout Latin America.

This announcement is the culmination of a six month process of business development market research and regulatory filings required by the Brazilian Central Bank and Revenue Authorities. “The country’s dynamic economy, large population, and security needs have drawn our attention for quite some time. We are excited to be in a position to offer our solutions in the Brazilian market where high-quality, high-technology solutions like the ones we offer are eagerly adopted,” said SecurLinx CEO Barry Hodge. According to Hodge, this gives SecurLinx a foothold in one of the world’s fastest growing and most promising security markets. “We are currently in discussions with potential integration partners that we expect to further multiply our reach and accelerate our market penetration over the next six to twelve months.”

The full text of the press release and a pdf of it is available here.

I've been down here in São Paulo helping to get things moving with our new operation here, hence the lighter-than-usual blogging. We're proud to share the news of our new Brazilian venture and excited for what the future holds.

São Paulo sidewalk

Technology to thwart fingerprint fakers

Clarkson professor develops fake fingerprint finding technology (Watertown Daily Times - New York)
“People can take materials and make a fake finger and pretend to be someone else,” she said. “We have a piece of software that determines whether the fingerprint is fake or not.”
There's also some good stuff about convenience, security and trade-offs at the link.

This post from February highlights an application that detects altered fingerprints: App Helps ID Altered Fingerprints

The security and ID management race continues.

Biometrics in Jail Management

Richmond County jailers like new fingerprint technology (Augusta Chronicle)
In July, a faster fingerprint system called RapidID was installed, and heavy-duty wristbands began being used. Both have been helpful in preventing the wrong person from being released, and catching criminals claiming to be someone else.

In January, Devontae Romeo Roberts was released by mistake when he switched wristbands with another inmate, Brett Corey Counts. Roberts was found two days later and re-committed with additional charges.
Keeping the wrong person from being released is a big biometric application in jails, but it's hardly the only one. Prisons also dispense medication, keep track of hours worked and run commissaries.

Implications of Ubiquitous Biometric Technology

A couple of good articles discussing the implications of ubiquitous biometric technology are out today...

Does rise of biometrics mean a future without anonymity? (Contra Costa Times)
"There are multiple benefits to society in using this form of identification," said Anil Jain, a Michigan State University computer science and engineering professor, adding the technologies could prove "transformative."
With face recognition, for example, "in 10 years the technology is going to be so good you can identify people in public places very easily," said Joseph Atick, a face-recognition innovator and co-founder of the trade group International Biometrics & Identification Association. But misusing it could result in "a world that is worse than a big-brother state," he warned, adding, "society is just beginning to catch up to what the consequence of this is."
Businesses to use facial recognition (The Advocate)
Imagine arriving at a hotel to be greeted by name, because a computer has analyzed your appearance as you approached the front door.

Or a salesman who IDs you and uses a psychological profile to nudge you to pay more for a car.

Friday, September 14, 2012

No biometrics in iPhone 5

Critics take bite out of Apple over missing features (The China Post - Taiwan)
Other widely expected features that were missing included wireless charging and biometric unlocking, which uses facial recognition or fingerprints as found on many phones running the latest version of Google's Android operating system. Two other popular features included on the latest Android and Windows Phone 8 devices but absent on the iPhone are enhanced widgets and notification tiles that let the user see information such as emails, weather, stock prices, tweets and Facebook updates right on the phone's home screen.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

India: West Bengal state adopts biometric ID for jobs program

Indian State Spends USD 18.5 mil on ICT in Welfare Scheme (Future Gov) 
ICT = Information and communications technology
On the 7th of September, the West Bengal state government in India confirmed a Rs. 103-crore (US$18.5 million) contract for end-to-end ICT services to streamline the e-governance applications of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) in West Bengal.

MGNREGS, the central government’s flagship social welfare programme, guarantees a minimum of 100 days of employment every year to adult members of rural households who are willing to perform public-service manual labour at minimum wage.
Increasing transparency and efficiency in social programs is important to maintaining their legitimacy amidst allegations of corruption. Biometrics can help and have been deployed successfully to meet identical goals in Andhra Pradesh.

Law Enforcement fingerprint biometrics data quality and ROI

Anonymous donation puts biometric scanner in LPD’s tool box (Laurel Outlook)

This is another one of those occasions where a local newspaper — this time in Laurel, Montana — provides great insight into the real contributions biometrics can make to an organization's efficient operation.
It’s not CSI television magic. The machine doesn’t analyze and match prints backed by a catchy electro-industrial soundtrack as seen in prime-time police investigation shows. But, it does dramatically reduce processing time, helps to eliminate human error by comparing the slap to individual prints and offering prompts for correct information, and electronically transfers the file. “It allows us to capture all the prints and information we’d put on a fingerprint card,” said Wells.

Part of the scanner’s appeal is its ability to capture prints under less than ideal conditions. The scanner glass platen is topped with a patented silicone membrane. This allows the capture of high-quality images from a wide cross-section of people, including those with very fine, worn, scarred or cracked fingerprint ridges and varying degrees of skin moisture content, with minimal pressure. The result is less distortion and more accurate, high-quality images.

“As good as our officers are — and we print a lot for the public and criminal processing — the fingerprint cards do get sent back,” said Musson. “There are so many things that go on with fingerprinting: too darkly inked, too oily, too dry. This should alleviate that.”

South Africa: Serious about ID Management

20m ghost ID books in SA (IT Web)
“Stats SA reckons there are 28 million people aged over 21. The IEC [Independent Electoral Commission] has 23 million registered voters. However, the credit bureaus have 38 million people registered, meaning they have 38 million identities. Bear in mind that they might be over the age of 18, eligible to vote, and old enough to feature in the Stats SA data of those over 16.

“So that doesn't seem to tie up...

More biometrics for privacy protection

How to protect your digital life from hackers and viruses (Broadband Genie)
At the end of list of things you should be doing to increase your digital privacy comes this tidbit...
If you want extra security pick up a neat biometric USB stick with fingerprint scanner.
Why locking your mobile device with a fingerprint is a great idea (CSO)
Smartphones and tablets store gigabytes of data. They have banking apps, and apps that access credit card or investment accounts. They connect to email, and social networks. If a mobile device falls into the wrong hands, it's possible that sensitive information and data could be compromised. That's why your smartphones and tablets need to be locked down and protected.

One of the rumors floating around about the iPhone 5 is that it might come with fingerprint scanning technology. If it's true, it would be a game changer for smartphone security.
Biometric technologies can protect individuals against privacy violations.

Ukraine harmonizing ID practices with Europe

Ukraine to Introduce European Standard of Biometric ID (Press Release via Sacramento Bee)
A bill concerning the introduction of biometric IDs in Ukraine passed the first reading in the country's parliament. Biometric documents will contribute to border security between Ukraine and the EU. The draft law provides for the creation of a unified state demographic register, which will contain basic personal information on each citizen. Additionally, the draft stipulates issuing the documents for traveling abroad that have a built-in proximity chip with registry information on the holder.

See also:

Biometric IDs A Step Toward EU – Ukraine Visa Simplicity (argophilia)
With the EU planning to assess the effect visa liberalization will have on illegal migrations soon, Ukraine tourism inbound and out stand to benefit if the new IDs fly with EU counterparts. The President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, created the State Migration Service already, an agency responsible for managing citizenship, immigration, registration, and political asylum issues.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Trickle Down Security

Kind of like GPS.

FBI's Facial Recognition Program: Better Security Through Biometrics. The FBI's facial recognition technology is a boon for law enforcement--and perhaps soon for enterprise and consumer security as well. (Information Week)

An important and often overlooked topic broached in the article is whether the more profound applications of biometric ID management technologies will be in commercial processes rather than law enforcement.

Deciding whether or not to incarcerate someone is very different than deciding whether to transfer property from a store owner to a customer. Naturally, different standards of identification and ID certainty will apply. I continue to think that private sector application of biometrics will eventually dwarf deployments in the public sector because in the private sector biometrics simply have to help people confront existing challenges better than the status quo coping mechanism. In the ultimate law enforcement setting, a court of law, they have to clear a standard that becomes less actuarial and more closely approximate of perfection in individual circumstances.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Lighter than usual blogging for a few days

I'm beating the drum for biometrics and SecurLinx from an undisclosed location. An announcement is forthcoming but blogging may be lighter than usual for a few days.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Philippines.  The use of biometrics in Eastern Visayas formally started Saturday to authenticate beneficiaries of the government’s cash grant program.

And in Nigeria...
DUE to rise in insecurity and fraud in Nigeria, the Director General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, (NDTC), Otunba Olusegun Runsewe has reiterated the need for hotels in Nigeria to have their staff identity captured in a database via biometric system of identification.

FBI Face Rec in the News

The story is all over the news, but I like this cnet piece best because Charles Cooper plays it straight and gives a concise history of how we got here.

Privacy hawks fret as FBI upgrades biometrics capacities (cnet)
The computer revolution arrived late at the FBI, which was still collecting and matching fingerprints in 1999 in much the same way that it did when the agency first began collecting the images in 1924. But that's been changing lately and privacy hawks are watching closely.

As the millennium neared, the agency finally traded in its manual system for one in which a database of fingerprints and associated criminal histories could be searched and updated. Now, the next step.
We first posted on this subject here in March, 2011.

This is the post that deals with some privacy and technical aspects of the issue in more detail. I highly recommend it (even if I do say so myself). Ultimately what is permitted in the name of law enforcement is, and should be, a political decision.

You may also be interested in our recent twitter "Biometric Chat" with Michael Kirkpatrick. Mr. Kirkpatrick was the FBI's Assistant Director in Charge of the Bureau's Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division from January 2001 - August 2004. He led the Division through profound IT changes especially relating to the application of biometric technologies to the challenges of law enforcement and the curent initiative under discussion here would have been under his purview.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Are laptop fingerprint sensors about security or convenience?

Popular fingerprint reader stores Windows passwords unencrypted (TechSpot)
ElcomSoft, a Russian digital forensics firm, has revealed a major vulnerability in UPEK Protector Suite, a popular biometric security solution that has shipped on machines from practically every large PC vendor, including Acer, Asus, Dell, Lenovo, MSI, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba. According to the researchers, the flaw makes UPEK's fingerprint reading software less secure than using Windows' standard password option.
Read the whole thing.

I haven't used the service in question lately, but the last time I used the UPEK setup, it was pretty clear that it was a biometric password manager. Until and unless a particular web service uses biometric authentication with authentication taking place on their own servers (and astonishingly few do), the fingerprint reader on a laptop is only ever going to be controlling a password management program.

Still, a fingerprint password manager can make better password habits more convenient, making it easier for users to cope with longer, more complex passwords and change them more frequently. But the UPEK setup described in the article meant that the passwords were stored in such a fashion that they weren't necessarily bulletproof.

As the article points out, if you're already encrypting your hard drive, this security situation may leave you more vulnerable than you thought. If you're not, this method of managing passwords seems much more secure than storing them in an unencrypted text or Excel file.

Biometrics and the future of money

Bulletproof Money Will Be a Thief’s Worst Nightmare—and Help Drive the Mobile Wave (Money Morning)
In the future, you'll have all sorts of biometric security features that will protect your assets and your identity. All of them can both protect corporate assets and empower the individual.

Finally, these same features could also exist inside your PC or even in different rooms within your home to give you a total security package.

We're not far from the day when ordinary folks will be able to defeat even the smartest hacker around, just by touching or looking into their phone's screen.

And it's all because the world is going mobile.

Can biometric authentication be successful in banking?

Biometrics and the Banking Business (finextra)
Socio-technological challenges pose the biggest barrier to adoption of biometric technology by banks. Banks also need to consider the local culture and level of literacy in the target region. For example, they might like to use fingerprint authentication in lieu of signature at branches located in areas with low literacy. But they might prefer to use iris recognition in other regions.
Every paragraph contains an interesting idea exploring how banks should view the desirability of implementing customer-facing biometrics.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Kenya Inks Canadian Loan for Biometric Kits

Kenya: Govt Signs Deal With Canada for BVR Kits (All Africa)
The government yesterday signed a loan agreement with its Canadian counterpart for the Biometric Voter Registration kits. Justice minister Eugene Wamalwa confirmed that the Cabinet sub-committee yesterday met the Canadians to sign the memorandum of understanding.

The committee has been negotiating with the Canadians over the Sh4.6 billion deal.
The loan carries no interest but the Canadians get to pick the biometric voter registration (BVR) kit vendor.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Because it's been a while since we mentioned ears as a biometric modality...

Progress In Unconstrained Ear Recognition (Science 2.0)
The Southampton team have developed a new technique using scale-invariant feature transform and homographies calculated from SIFT point matches. It can cope not only with fuzzy and degraded images, but also with ears that are up to 18% occluded.
A healthy degree of skepticism is in order regarding the short and medium term prospects for the adoption of more exotic biometric modalities: ear, gait, gluteus maximus, etc. In order to make it into commercial applications (as opposed to forensic applications) either ear biometrics are going to have to accomplish an ID task more accurately and more cheaply than the more established modalities (face, finger, etc. which have a head start) or they're going to have to facilitate identifications that the others can't.

Maybe ear biometric verification on a mobile phone's front-facing camera can work.

80% of Fiji Adults Register for Biometric Voter Enrollment In Two Weeks

Close to Half a Million Fijians Register During First Phase of Registration (Republic of Fiji Press Release)
Almost half a million have registered to vote in the first wave of electronic voter registration (EVR) for the 2014 elections. This represents around 80 percent of current eligible domestic voters, with another period of registration to come later in the year, and the first registrations of Fijians living abroad to begin next year.

At the close of the first phase of sixty-one days, 488,734 Fijians registered at Voter Registration Centers (VRCs) that were open in locations across the country.

"This is a great achievement as Fiji moves toward parliamentary elections in 2014," the Attorney-General and Minister Responsible for Elections, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said.

"The overwhelming turn-out of the Fijian people is a clear indication of their willingness and commitment to participate in the process of building a better Fiji for all."

"A Fiji that provides the legal and moral foundation for a common and equal citizenry. Where there is no legal obligation to vote along ethnic lines, but where every Fijian over the age of 18 has an equal vote to cast as they choose."
I believe there are also other reasons why Fijians have so eagerly adopted biometric voter registration. Because it is secured with biometrics, the voter registration card is being accepted as a credible for of ID by all sorts of government ministries. Can private sector entities be far behind?


The CIA World Factbook estimates Fiji's population in 2012 at 890,057 and estimates that approximately 29% of the population is younger than fifteen years old. So that's 489,734 enrollments among the over-fourteen population of around 633,000.

Schools should consider biometrics to protect personal information

Schools put pupils' information at risk (The Telegraph)
Schoolchildren’s addresses, routes to school and even fingerprints are at risk of exploitation because nearly half of schools have no policy for handling pupil data, researchers have found.
If schools are unable to keep data secure, biometric template information is the last thing that should concern parents.

As the article points out, schools also keep academic records, behavioral records, medical records, socio-economic assessments for administering school lunch programs, home address information, counseling notes and a ton of other information that is much more sensitive than a fingerprint template consisting of a string text characters that cannot be used to learn anything about a student.

Too often, news accounts use biometrics as the ultimate example of private information and the hook on which to hang all sorts of fears the reader is supposed to imagine — i.e. part of the problem — when they are actually part of the solution. Because biometrics are far superior to usernames and passwords for securing personal information, I'd suggest that all electronic access to student information should be controlled biometrically.

Biometrics provide for far more secure information because the biometric sensor hardware itself provides a layer of protection that a keyboard never can provide passwords. In the standard Username/Password regime, the hardware used, the keyboard, offers no additional security. With username/password authentication, a hacker needs only a keyboard to fill in the proper fields and she gains access to the network. If that username/password is a superuser or administrator credential, an organization may see some turnover in the CTO function.

Biometric authentication is very different animal because with biometrics, the hardware layer does provide extra security. If the hacker steals a biometric or unencrypted biometric template (a long character string), she can't just type it in even if she finds the place in the programming that handles the template. It has to come from the fingerprint sensor. The template resulting from a verification attempt is like a single use password created during the interaction of a physical object (body part) with certain known sensor.