Identity theft and the leaking of personal information seem to be one of the fastest growing and notorious businesses/industries in the country.

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This comes after a data breach that saw the private information of approximately 30 million South African citizens being leaked. An Australian based Internet security expert – Troy Hunt, has confirmed the breach, but no direct links have been made yet. The source of the leak of information is still under investigation. 

Following this report, it is only normal that people start wondering about the safety of their private information and how these leaks are carried through.

Identity theft happens when identity criminals manage to deceive victims in order to fraudulently claim the information of an individual without their consent. Biometric authentication methods technologies are used to verify the identity of an individual. 

Claude Langley, Business Development Manager, of HID Global Africa said, “There are multiple biometric technologies, however, the fingerprint biometric is the most common in the banking and financial industries, and has recently been adoption will be seen in the retail chains. By use of biometric methods, for example, finger print biometric, you can place your fingerprint on the sensor, and that finger print can be matched to your profile at Home Affairs which then returns a positive or negative on your identity”

This method and many other biometric systems might seem to be highly accurate and secure, , there are risks for instance, spoofing does take place to illegally obtain information from the systems which have substandard technologies

Unfortunately, substandard fingerprint biometric products are available, and this opens it up to spoofing. 

“Spoofing is when you fool a biometric sensor, however technologies like HID Global’s Multi Spectrum Imaging (MSI) provides various technologies against spoofing. MSI’s use a light technology that detects not only the surface prints, but also sub surface information, attached to that is liveness detection which makes it that hard to spoof ” he said.

Liveness detection is a biometric sensor that ensures the finger being presented is from a living person. This technique works to combat any acts using fake fingers.

According to the 2013 Norton Report, South Africa has the third highest number of cybercrime victims worldwide. This was confirmed at a presentation made at the 2015 Security Summit, held in Johannesburg.

At this summit it was revealed that during a six-week period leading up to the Summit, South Africa suffered more cybercrime attacks than any other country in Africa.

With the growing demand in the digital space of the retail industry, more people are investing and doing their shopping online. This is one of the methods that compromise the level of safety in the safety of confidential information as cyber criminals can worm their way into systems to obtain data. Once that has been done, it is almost impossible for the victim to know that their identity has been stolen. 

“You might only realise it months later, once you get a bill or the credit bureau receives information of an account you’ve supposedly opened. So identity theft is very dependant on the scenario before it is traced” said Langley.

When identity criminals manage to steal your information and identity, you can be sure that they manage to use it almost immediately. As the victim, you will only know that your information has been stolen once it gets used. 

An information leak does not necessarily mean it will be used for identity theft, but around 30 million South Africans are now more vulnerable to it. 

With the ever-evolving technology, no authentication method is completely fool proof, but identity authentication systems are moving towards persuasive multi-modal technologies, which should make it more difficult to attain someone’s identity.

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