Thursday, December 15, 2016

How banks are using behavioral fingerprinting to help prevent fraud

Photo of woman using a tablet mobile device

Behavioral biometric “fingerprinting” software watches and learns a user’s typical behavior and then raises a flag when it sees use that doesn’t align with previous behavior patterns. Behavioral analytic software is catching on in banking, worldwide.

Behavioral biometric software is embedded in a bank's apps and online banking website. As an example, with a mobile app, the analytic software can capture the angle at which a user holds their phone, the amount of pressure used on the keypad, the speed of the typing and the typographical errors the user tends to make. A unique biometric profile is built for the user. If it looks like another user is trying to access the account, the software sends an alert to the bank which may bar access to the account. Even when a new user is setting up an account, the software will compare the user to a fraudulent behavior profile.

One key benefit of behavioral biometric software is that it can catch fraud as it is taking place, stopping it before it succeeds. Another advantage is that the protection is seamless; it takes place without any effort required from the customer. The software is also very effective at stopping automated fraud – automated behavior is very different from and easy to detect compared to human behavior.

A main concern of behavioral biometric software is false positives. Companies interviewed for the article below said that most of the alerts they receive genuinely turn out to be fraud, and with the success rate of fraud prevention, the software has more than proven its worth. However, if a person has an injury to their hand or wrist, or tries to access a banking account while inebriated, they may very well have trouble accessing their account.

Next-Gen Biometrics: Using the Force of Habit

Penny Crosman for American Banker, November 17, 2016

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Scientists have found a way to “fingerprint” the human brain

Tractographic reconstruction of neural connections via DTI
Thomas Schultz, Wikipedia

With advances in technology, scientists from Carnegie Mellon University have found a way to map the patterns of the brain in the finest detail, going beyond the mapping of larger region-to-region connections to mapping the patterns of point-to-point connections.

The non-invasive technology used is diffusion MRI. It’s used to track the movement of water molecules in the brain’s white matter pathways, called local connectome. No two brains have the exact same pattern, not even twins. In the study, scientists were able to determine if two imaged patterns were from the same person, or two different people, 100% of the time.

Also fascinating is that the brain's patterns shift and change over time, about 13% every 100 days. This supports current brain theory that beyond disease and genetics, one’s brain is changed by one’s environment, and by one’s life experiences.

This breakthrough is sure have great implications in other fields of study, but the first and most urgent application will be in the field of medicine. The changes in the brain’s connectivity patterns can be studied for markers for mental disorders and psychiatric illnesses. It’s possible that we’ll eventually be able to stop diseases before they have a chance to develop in the brain. Exciting prospects, indeed.

It’s Now Possible To Fingerprint Our Brain 

Staff Writer, The Wall Street Pit, November 27, 2016

Scientists Fingerprint the Brain

By Ben Andrew Henry | The Scientist, November 17, 2016 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

New advance in fingerprinting: contactless fingerprint technology

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has developed a device for contactless fingerprinting. The technology uses optical coherence tomography (OCT).  Think of OCT as an optical ultrasound, using light to capture the biometric image of a fingerprint. 

OCT captures subsurface as well as surface information, scanning a fingerprint internally as well as externally. These hybrid images are higher in resolution and capture more detail. This technology will make it easier to detect fake prints. 

At a crime scene, an OCT device will capture more information on live and latent fingerprints (seen and unseen prints). OCT scanning doesn’t destroy DNA evidence. It doesn’t require dusting, therefore it won't contamination the crime scene. Other interesting benefits, it can detect sweat glands, and also whether the subject is dead or alive.

Acquiring fingerprints without touch is more accurate in that the process doesn’t distort prints, as happens with the slight finger pressure used in traditional fingerprint scanning. OCT fingerprinting is more tamper-proof, more hygienic, and doesn’t leave fingerprint residue behind on a scanner surface.

OCT is currently used in the medical fields of ophthalmology and dermatology. Now with contactless fingerprinting, it will help advance the fields of law enforcement and forensics.

Council for Scientific and Industrial Research develops contactless fingerprinting device

Justin Lee for, September 22, 2016

CSIR develops hi-tech contactless fingerprint device

Staff Writer, ITWeb, Johannesburg, 21 Sep 2016 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing this Thanksgiving finds you with many reasons to be thankful. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Imagine classic “Whodunits” without fingerprints…

They wouldn’t be quite the same, would they? This reader has just finished a period mystery set in 1907 New York, “A Deadly Affection” by Cuyler Overholt, in which fingerprints played a role in narrowing the suspect pool. In this case, the fingerprints were not a match and the protagonist went on to use psychology to help identify the killer.

In the late 1800’s, identifying the owner of bloody fingerprints left at the crime scene solved a murder in Mark Twain’s “Life on the Mississippi.” In the early 1900’s, Arthur Conan Doyle’s keen detective Sherlock Holmes used fingerprints, as well as interesting found evidence such as footprints and cigarette ashes to positively identify killers.

Fingerprints have also be used to implicate the wrong person, as in Patricia Wentworth’s 1959 novel “The Fingerprint.” A young woman touches the gun when she happens upon a crime scene, almost getting herself convicted for a crime she didn’t commit.  A similar twist is featured in a modern classic, Stieg Larsson’s 2006 novel “The Girl Who Played With Fire.” In this case a gun that was touched by Lizbeth is then used to murder a couple, implicating her in two murders.

Readers will enjoy the article linked below which takes a look at how fingerprints have inspired writers, from 19th century novels where fingerprints were just beginning to be used in crime solving, to modern classics. You may be inspired to think of other favorite books in which fingerprints were key in moving the plot along.

Whodunit? How fingerprinting has inspired writers

Books section,, August 31, 2016

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Biometric Security 101

Photo of tablet user fingerprint authentication

In a world that is going paperless, more advanced security measures were needed and have been developed in response to threats of cyber hacking, organized crime and terrorism. Biometrics, everything from fingerprints, facial structure, iris scans, voice analysis and DNA have provided the basis for a secure and convenient way of authenticating identity.

Biometrics is a rapidly growing industry, but not a new science. By the late 1800s, the study of fingerprint had advanced to their use in identifying people; the origin of iris scans dates back to 1936. Starting in the late 1980’s, major advances took place in biometric technology that accelerated the growth of the security and surveillance industries. Faster computers and algorithms helped make it all possible.

Today, biometrics – fingerprints, voice, iris scans and facial analysis – are used to authenticate mobile devices, in retail and banking transactions, for security in airports, and in border control. The global biometrics market in the U.S. is expected to exceed $24.8 billion by 2021. Still biometric authentication is used more extensively in Europe and other countries than in the U.S., for example, being used to authenticate voters and the recipients of social service programs. 

Americans want security, but they also have strong feelings about privacy. While biometrics is ever advancing, and its use in authentication and security growing, cards and paper identification are still expected to be in use for many years to come.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Will biometrics be the answer to preventing voter fraud in the U.S.?

U.S. voting graphic

A U.S. company, Integrated Biometrics, has been providing portable fingerprint scanners for use in Brazil to help register and verify voters. Much of Brazil is agricultural. With mobile fingerprint scanning technology, farming families who would have trouble traveling to cities to vote can be enabled through outreach to cast their vote. 

Biometric authentication for voting has been in use for years in Europe. Apple brought biometric authentication into the mainstream in U.S. with Touch ID for the iPhone. Fingerprint authentication is now routinely used in the U.S. for accessing smart phones and mobile devices, for convenient payment transactions, for admittance to secure areas, and for express check-in at airports or events.

It seems only a matter of time before biometrics is used to verify voters in the U.S., at least partially, but there resistance to the idea of a digital identity registered with the government. Many feel it is invasive or a threat to privacy to share their biometrics, preferring to use a paper ID or passport.

Still, it would make voting easier: for people who don’t drive or have passports, for rural or low income areas, for the elderly and those in poor health, to name a few. It would certainly cut down on the number of deceased voters. And using biometrics to enable social service would help prevent social security and tax fraud. 

Introducing biometrics in the U.S. voting process: Q&A with Dave Gerulski

Justin Lee, Biometric Update, October 16, 2016, an interview with Dave Gerulski of Integrated Biometrics

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Apple developing new authentication technology for the smart watch based on heart rate?

After being the first to create a fingerprint sensor to authenticate its mobile devices, based on a recent patent application, Apple is working on developing a new authentication technology for its smart watch. This new biometric technology will verify a user based on their heart rate.

The technology is based on photoplethysmography (PPG), which measures minute changes in blood volume and pressure. Simplified, light emitters send light that penetrates the skin, and light sensors measure the amount of light that bounces back to the device. This measures the amount of blood flow in the user’s skin and other biometric characteristics, which can be used together to authenticate a user.

Importantly, aside from authenticating and unlocking a smart watch, the information is expected to be used to authenticate Apple Pay transactions. 

It’s not yet known whether Apple has created a working prototype. The small size of a smart watch creates a design challenge. The smart watch would have to have additional technology to verify the accuracy of the biometric reading. That’s a lot of technology to fit in a very small space. 

Next-Gen Apple Watch Models Could Identify Users Based On Their Veins Via Heart-Rate Sensor, Patent Application Says

By Chris Loterina, Tech Times, October 17, 2016

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Innovative young engineer designs smart gun to advance gun safety

Strongly motivated to work towards gun safety technology by the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado native Kai Kloepfer of Biofire Technologies has designed and introduced the first smart gun working prototype. He aims for production within a year to two years.

Kai's smart gun improves gun safety by restricting gun use to authorized users. A biometric fingerprint sensor is positioned in the gun's grip where the shooter’s middle finger normally rests. Continuous contact with the sensor allows the gun to remain live.

The sensor doesn’t work through gloves or drenched skin, but will work with hands that are sweaty. Currently it takes about 1-1/2 seconds for the sensor to work and release the internal trigger lock. The goal is to decrease the time to only half a second. The gun can store 10 fingerprints, allowing other trusted users to be able to operate gun.

The smart gun has already has detractors due to physical limitations, but also due to politics. As some politicians are already working towards pushing technology as a means of gun control, some Second Amendment supporters are seeking to prevent smart guns from making inroads into the gun market.

Kai is not a supporter of forcing smart gun technology on anyone, rather he wants to offer consumers a choice in the marketplace. He sees a smart gun as good fit with younger gun owners who have grown up with smart phones and devices, and who are comfortable with and advocates of smart technology.

By Jacki Billings,, 10/17/16

Thursday, October 13, 2016

A more secure way to send your passwords? Through your body.

Digital fingerprint photo

Password information sent through air using wi-fi or Bluetooth is vulnerable to hacking. Researchers at the University of Washington have discovered a way to send password information more securely – through one’s body. Visualize one hand touching a smart phone screen and the other touching an electronic smart lock. Researchers have found a way for a smartphone to read and send the password information through the body to a unlock a door. Another use could be sending readings from one's body to a wearable medical devices, such as a glucose sensor.

UW’s research team studied smartphone sensors to find the point where benign low frequency transmissions generated by fingerprint sensors travel well through the body, but are not transmitted through the air. They found that the 2 to 10 megahertz range was just enough to sense the finger and identify the ridges and valleys that form a unique fingerprint pattern. In their testing, researchers found that the data could be transmitted successfully regardless of individual body type, the posture of the body, or whether the body was stationary or in motion. 

Researchers found a way to repurpose the signals normally received as input from the smartphone sensors or laptop trackpads to output corresponding to a password. They were able to send data through the body and to a receiver within seconds. 

These finding are only a first step. Researchers hope to be able to work with fingerprint sensor manufacturers, specifically to have better access to their software, to continue to refine and speed up transmission. To learn more about the team and see illustrations of this concept, follow the link below.

Secure passwords can be sent through your body, instead of air

Jennifer Langston, UW Today, September 27, 2016

Friday, October 7, 2016

Homeland Security expanding biometric security checks for international travel

Several of the perpetrators responsible for the 9/11 plane hijackings were in the U.S. because they overstayed their visas. One way this was done was by having an accomplice fly out of the country using another’s passport. Biometric data collection at U.S. borders began in 2004 in part to prevent the swapping of identities, one person flying out of the country on the expired visa, the other person staying on using the unexpired visa.   

Fingerprint scanning is set to be in place at the nation’s busiest airports by 2018. The Department of Homeland Security plans to increase facial image and iris scans as well, taking advantage of new technology. The goal is to make border crossings efficient and secure for both U.S. citizens and foreign visitors.

Currently U.S. citizen biometric information is discarded after verification is made, and non-U.S. citizen data, including biometric information, is kept for 75 years. With the expansion of border security and biometric data collection, privacy concerns include the increase in surveillance, data retention time, and the government’s ability to safeguard that data from hackers. For the latter, it is recommended that the date be encrypted and have “cancellable properties” to render stolen data useless.

The cost for the expanded biometric data capture program is not yet known as the DHS is still deciding which system to go with.

By Malena Carollo, Contributor to the Christian Science Monitor, September 9, 2016