6 lessons on online privacy and digital authentication

Sifted | Tom Ritchie | Mar 23, 2021

Digital fraud, from phishing to synthetic identity fraud, is increasing in frequency and sophistication. It’s more crucial than ever for startups to protect themselves using biometric identification, which uses AI and machine learning to analyse images — but just how good is verification tech, and where is it headed?

We asked this and more to our panel of privacy and security experts for the latest Sifted Talks, including: Stephen Ritter, CTO of digital identity verification and mobile deposit solutions business Mitek; Seun Oshinusi, head of financial crime prevention at Curve, a digital card and wallet app; and Dr Kate Coleman, CEO of iKey, a software provider that takes exploratory images of retinas for identification and health purposes.

1. Digital verification is in a constant state of innovation

As new technologies are introduced and adopted, bad actors are quickly adapting their strategies to defraud or extort businesses and their customers. Startups need to constantly iterate for the latest security technology — like near-field communication (NFC) chips, that hold our biometric data in our smartphones — to keep their customers’ data safe.

“As the technology advances, so too do the fraudsters. As we get smarter, so do they. They’re constantly looking at how to intercept the systems that we have… We try to stay in front of them.” — Seun Oshinusi, Curve 

2. Startups need to choose a biometric that’s right for their product

The key to successfully implementing authentication is ensuring that it marries well with your product and userbase’s needs. Ritter suggests using a range of different biometric authentication points — like facial, iris or voice recognition — that mirror your onboarding process, to reduce UX friction and keep your customer in the process.

“It’s important to pick the right biometric at that moment in time, otherwise there’s too much friction and it’s not going to feel natural.” — Stephen Ritter, Mitek

3. Current tech is capable of even greater security

Our panellists all agreed that the infrastructure required for greater biometric identification is already largely in place. For example, Dr Coleman suggests retina authentication is already possible with current smartphone tech. While there is little demand for this tech at the moment, the constant threat of cyberattack and the spread of mimicking software such as deep fakes will create a need for more sophisticated authentication in the next few years.

“The average phone is 125 times more powerful than the rocket we sent to the moon. The technology is there, it’s just that people haven’t asked for it yet.” — Dr Kate Coleman, iKey

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