Interview – Conor White, Daon Americas President on IdentityX
05 June 2015 15:45 GMT

Biometric solutions for banking have featured heavily in the news this week, with predictions that these will dominate banking authentication by 2020, and RBC in Canada rapidly implementing the Android M fingerprint API.

The rising interest from financial institutions in biometrics raises questions over which modality will eventually win out in the battle to create a frictionless solution that suits all demographics. Will it be a single modality such as finger vein, iris or fingerprint – or will multi-modal or behavioural solutions disrupt the market?

Washington-based biometrics firm Daon has taken a holistic view to the future, developing a layered solution that should overcome the failure of any one modality.

Early signs suggest the approach is working, with some 600,000 users adopting the biometric app it developed for USAA since February – including an over-60 demographic that critics had suggested wouldn’t be receptive to new tech.

Planet Biometrics talked to Conor White, Americas President at Daon, about the firm’s motivations in developing the IdentityX solution.

Why are credit unions and banks interested in IdentityX over other authentication tech?

Banks and credit unions understand that the password model is broken.  Both are looking for alternative solutions that will enhance customer security while making the experience more convenient.  Daon’s IdentityX platform is the only solution on the market today that offers this type of flexibility.  USAA for example, has provided a capability that allows their members to quickly and easily authenticate into their mobile banking app. This capability enhances both security and the user experience.

Do you see developments like the multi-modal, risk level features of Windows 10 as validation of the route IdentityX has taken?

Absolutely.  Microsoft recognizes the same issue that we’ve seen – the proliferation through stealing and sharing of passwords has become a major issue. The world continues to authenticate “things” (such as passwords) when it needs to authentication “people” instead. Look at how much the world has changed in the last 10 years. We manage so much of our lives online and the lines between the physical and virtual worlds have blurred a lot – especially in banking and payments. You can’t expect to protect today’s critical and sensitive data with a solution that was invented in 1960.  Passwords had their place at one time, but today they are inadequate at best, and very unsecure.

How do you react to news reports of high-profile biometric spoofing and hackings?

No single authentication factor – biometric or otherwise – is 100% secure.  Nobody should ever say that.  And regardless of what type of authentication technology comes on the market, there will always be thousands of people who will try to spoof or hack the modality, if for no other reason than bragging rights.  But as we both know, their motivation is usually far more nefarious.   

That is why solutions like the IdentityX platform are so important. Without a layered, multi-factor approach, you are merely replacing one point of failure with another one. That is why we've designed our platform to allow for stepped up security measures. Lets take a mobile banking app as an example.

You might only have to enter a 4-digit PIN to check on your account balance and make a deposit. But transferring money from one account to another might take the 4-digit PIN and your fingerprint. And pulling a large amount of cash out of an investment account into a checking account might require you to authenticate with your PIN, your fingerprint and your voice or face. The greater the risk, the higher the level of authentication required – our platform enables this and allows the business systems to react real time to the risk level in the transaction.

Biometrics coupled with the many other security components that make up platforms like IdentityX are the strongest measure of mobile authentication available today.

What factors will accelerate use of biometric security, and what factors put consumer acceptance at risk?

Having companies like Apple, Microsoft and Samsung incorporate biometrics into the technology we use every day is a huge accelerator.  But there will never be a single platform that everyone uses globally.  That is why the biggest accelerator will be giving people a choice of how they wish to authenticate.  We designed the IdentityX Platform to give them that flexibility. 

Taking away that flexibility and freedom of choice is what will put consumer acceptance at risk.  Certain people may not wish to authenticate through facial recognition – they may be more comfortable using their fingerprint.  Others may want to use voice recognition from time to time. Recognizing that there is no universal authenticator and consumers want choice is key to biometric adoption across all demographics. If you take away choice and ease of use, consumers are not going to embrace biometric security.

USAA got it right. They took an inclusive, member-centric approach and provide their members with freedom of choice when they authenticate. As a result, their adoption statistics are excellent. 

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