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Identification verification a strategic imperative to fight cybercrime in the digital economy

27th July 2023

By: Schalk Burger

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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The use of robust identity verification technologies is a strategic imperative in an increasingly digitised economic climate, where cybersecurity risks abound.

Validating a person's identify is critical to effectively and reliably counter financial crime, says identity verification and authentication technology company Iidentifii COO Murray Collyer.

Financial organisations can make a concerted effort to combat money laundering and financial crime by using these technologies, and, while some criminal activity occurs using cash or cryptocurrencies, banks remain vulnerable to money laundering, particularly in cross-border transactions.

Biometric security threats currently fall into two categories, namely presentation attacks and digital injection attacks. Presentation attacks refer to photos, videos, or even masks being held up to a screen to fool the technology into mapping the features of the identity being defrauded, he says.

Digital injection attacks, meanwhile, see imagery injected directly into the video stream, either through emulators, hacking tools or virtual cameras. This directly injected imagery includes sophisticated deepfakes or face swaps, where artificial intelligence (AI) technology spoofs another person’s likeness.

With the emergence and growth of face swaps, low-skilled criminals now have the means to launch advanced attacks. Threat actors launched motion-based attacks simultaneously and at scale against hundreds of systems globally.

“To the untrained eye or technology, face swap synthetic imagery has the characteristics of the genuine individual’s facial traits. The imagery can match their government-issued identification photograph during a liveness verification attempt, if the technology is not equipped with the latest defences,” highlights Collyer.

Digital injection attack detection needs fundamentally different techniques from presentation attack detection. Many current biometric systems are not equipped to defend against this fast-growing threat. Financial institutions can make use of liveness in authentication to prove identity to prevent money laundering and cyberattacks.

“Liveness is the confirmation and verification that there is a human being conducting a transaction on the other side of the screen. While cybercriminals can mine personal data and override certain systems through targeted attacks, it is more difficult to forge a sense of human liveness,” he notes.

Many local banks are addressing the challenge head-on and are upgrading their systems in response to new digital risks, he adds.

“Iidentifii has partnered with three leading South African banks to fortify their digital identification and onboarding processes. This is part of a wider banking strategy to protect companies and consumers against anti-money laundering and fraud,” Collyer says.

“Our Four-Dimensional (4D) Liveness is resilient to deepfake and replay attacks. It comprises different colour lights that reflect in a certain sequence off the user’s face, which helps determine true biometric liveness. This has been the solution of choice for South Africa’s leading banks,” he added.

Additionally, in January 2025, global anti-money laundering watchdog the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) will review its decision to greylist South Africa

The country will need to demonstrate a practical, scalable plan to combat money laundering, fraud and other financial crimes.

“This does not need to be South Africa’s reality. Mauritius successfully met FATF’s criteria and was removed from the grey list in two years. However, this required focused attention and collaboration from the public and private sectors,” Collyer says.

South African financial institutions are under the spotlight and the country has 18 months to demonstrate an effective anti-money laundering strategy. It is sufficient time to make enough strides to reverse the greylisting, as the technology exists to combat money laundering and financial crime at scale.

“It is possible to reverse South Africa’s greylisting in 18 months. Financial institutions need to refine their focus on digital identity, the central factor in performing safe, verifiable, and authenticated transactions. If we can demonstrate an ability to combat threats at a global level, this could instil faith in reluctant overseas investors and local customers alike,” he avers.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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