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Jun 05 2020

The new hygiene necessities of security

The global pandemic has caused organizations to review many, perhaps most, aspects of their operations. Protecting the wellbeing of citizens, customers and colleagues by reducing the risk of viral transmission has been a key objective – as seen by the widespread use of facemasks in many countries and the appearance of Perspex screens in every shop.

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We are still learning about the coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease. So far, we know the virus is believed to survive outside of a human host for several days, particularly on hard surfaces. According to a report from the US’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), traces of the virus were found on the cruise ship Diamond Princess some 17 days after its passengers had left.

Clearly, the link between minimizing contact with hard surfaces in public spaces and maintaining security will be an important aspect of post-lockdown life for organizations. Everyday working life, as it used to be, involved regular touching or swiping to gain access to buildings, systems, equipment and machinery. And that means a rethink is needed.

Today, there is widespread use of digital or mechanical keypads, where people use their fingers to enter alpha-numeric codes. This approach is now shown to be flawed, since these must now be wiped with alcohol-based disinfectants after every use to protect against virus transmission.

In the realm of biometric security, where fingerprint recognition has become popular, the need for physical contact has also become a problem. Even so-called low-contact swipe cards or contactless proximity readers often require physical contact.

Now more than ever, a convenient, hygienic and – importantly – contact-free alternative is needed.

 

Facial and voice recognition are both non-contact, but what about reliability?

Facial recognition is one popular contactless biometric solution, but simply does not work with a face mask on. That narrows down the selection of hygienic biometric technology to voice and iris recognition, and the palm vein-based system developed by Fujitsu, PalmSecure.

Voice and iris recognition both have their merits, but the bottom line is security reliability: How good a job can these technologies do in reliably identifying users? The level of error with facial recognition is high – its false acceptance rate (FAR) is 1 in 70. That’s not very secure at all, especially when compared with voice recognition (FAR of one in 10,000), and iris recognition (which goes several steps better at one in 1 million). Furthermore, it requires a user to briefly remove their mask – a counterproductive measure. With a FAR of one in 10 million, palm vein recognition is the most reliable form of contactless secure access available today, with independent verification and recommendations from the German BSI (the Federal Cyber Security Authority), the CNIL in France and the UK government’s National Technical Authority for Information Assurance (CESG). PalmSecure is a recommended biometric solution for patient identification in the USA (HIPAA compliant), and recommended for financial services by banking associations (SRC, BDB, DSGV).

 

How palm vein recognition works

Fujitsu’s contactless PalmSecure authentication system uses biometric technology to authenticate users based on the unique pattern of oxygen-depleted veins in the palm of their hand. Mainly invisible under normal light, these show up under infra-red. Vein patterns are unique to individuals and contain detailed characteristics, allowing a template to be formed for each user. Patterns do not change as we age (except for exceptional circumstances, such as extensive burns). The vein patterns of any person’s palm provide incontrovertible identification, since no two human patterns are alike – even in the case of twins. Since any stored information consists exclusively of cryptographic templates, it is impossible to draw conclusions about data such as name, age, gender, state of health or race from the data.

 

The end of passwords (and trying to figure out what that substance was on the elevator button)

As well as a more hygienic approach to security, palm vein biometrics holds out the prospect, today, of a password-free working environment. Imagine this scenario: you arrive at work and hold your hand over the access gate for access. Over to the elevator, which is connected to the gate and pre-programmed to travel to your floor. At your workstation, you log on by hovering your hand and stroll across to the printer, where hovering your hand produces the document you need for your meeting. I could extend this vision to include IoT devices, controlled access areas, or the beloved coffee machine in the shared office kitchen – but you get the picture. Repeated, unhygienic contact with shared equipment and infrastructure can be a thing of the past.

As we return to life after lockdown, it will be a complex and lengthy process to respond to the new needs and conditions of working life. Palm vein recognition provides a relatively swift way to reduce the risk of viral transmission and gives a significant uplift to security at the same time.

 

Oliver Reyers

 

About the Author:

Oliver Reyers
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Working for Fujitsu for 19 years, Oliver Reyers has been contributing his years of process and portfolio manager to Fujitsu's biometric solutions since 2016....

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