Uniquely Personal Protection


An Iowa community bank rolls out a retail biometric facial and fingerprint security system

By Phil Britt

Personalized service is reaching a whole new futuristic level at one Midwest community bank. Bridge Community Bank in Mt. Vernon, Iowa, is introducing a fingerprint and facial identification system into its retail cybersecurity.

In September, the $80 million-asset community bank began rolling out the biometric system for its customers to help secure mobile payments, confirm identities at the teller line, and eliminate the use of Social Security numbers and cumbersome passwords in many of the bank’s customer interactions. The bank has started automatically enrolling new customers in the system and encouraging existing customer to enroll voluntarily.

“This is still in its very early stages,” points out Bob Steen, Bridge Community Bank’s CEO.

Steen has seen only a slight hesitancy among his customers. Most of the bank’s customers are accustomed to facial recognition technology because the state of Iowa uses it as part of driver’s license renewal, he adds. “We’ve had a little more hesitancy with younger people than with older folks.”

Bridge Community Bank is using a system from Tascet Inc., a technology firm in Madison, Wis., that approached the bank to pilot the biometric program.

“We’ve had a little more hesitancy from younger people than with older folks.”
—Bob Steen, Bridge Community Bank

To enroll in the security system a customer either provides or confirms his or her basic information—name, address, date of birth, gender—and then submits to two digital “fingerproofs” scans and a “faceproof” scan. From those scans a 16-digit digital representation of the customer’s physical features, known as an ICONN, are activated to verify his or her identity for future transactions, both online or in person.

The first level objective is that when a customer needs to conduct a teller transaction, the customer would place his finger on a scanner, which would confirm his or her identity. For remote transactions outside of a branch, Tascet provides an app for facial recognition—no similar fingerprint app is available quite yet from the company—that a customer uses. The customer will click on the software’s “capture image” button, which captures the facial image from a customer’s handheld device or desktop computer camera. The company says a customer’s identity can be confirmed within three seconds.

New Software Tools of the Trade

Cognitive Biometric Authentication

Cognitive biometric authentication and threat detection is a new field that uses security software analytics to identify people over the Internet based on subtle but distinctive behaviors, such as how they move a computer mouse or how quickly they navigate through websites.

One company call BioCatch based in Israel is helping to lead the technology specialty by offering an extra-layer security system that gathers and analyzes more than 400 behavioral, cognitive and physiological actions that can authenticate a particular individual using a computer and alternatively detect actions taken by malware on a person’s computer.

Without knowing the real identities of bank customers, BioCatch’s system only needs to monitor about 10 computer sessions by each individual bank customer before it collects enough patterns to establish a profile that the software uses to protect the customer and his or her accounts. The company says its system is a form of online personal identification that cannot be lost, imitated or stolen.

“What makes our solution so unique is the fact it’s completely transparent, works behind the scenes, and yet is far more secure than traditional two-factor authentication as it goes beyond what the user knows or has,” offers Benny Rosenbaum, the company’s CEO.

Details: www.biocatch.com.

More Mobile Authentication

A mobile authentication software company has modified its security software to allow bank customers to replace their typed passwords with a digital image and spoken passphrase. Authentify Inc. in Chicago updated its xFA mobile security software to provide more multifactor authentication security options that consumers’ smartphones can accept.

“Smartphones are packed with features that can be used for strong authentication,” says John Zurawski, vice president at Authentify. “What we have done is make that experience as simple, automated and friction-free for mobile users as SSL or HTTPS is on the Web.”

Information: www.authentify.com.

In addition to using the biometric authentication system, Bridge Community Bank will continue to require all of its customers change their online account passwords every 120 days but with less complexity.

Steen sees the biometric system speeding up transactions in those instances when a customer’s account number might be unknown or entered incorrectly. The technology works quickly because it looks to confirm a fingerprint that belongs to a particular customer rather than scanning a fingerprint and then looking for a match.

Steen sees a biometric identifier as superior to other forms of authentication, particularly Social Security numbers, that the banking industry has traditionally used, because any compromises of such personal identifying information can have lasting and far-reaching implications related to identity theft. Additionally, usernames and passwords are often forgotten and can be difficult to enter on the small form factor of the typical smartphone screen.

“From the mobile payments side, one of the biggest customer complaints is the complex password requirement,” Steen points out. “Ultimately from an industry perspective, we’re going to need a unique identifier.”

While there are other useful identification systems available, Steen says the benefit of the bank’s biometric ICONN identifier system is that it can have other uses, such as its integration with the bank’s customer information files and the ability to migrate securely with the person if he or she switches financial institutions.

Bridge Community Bank is planning to integrate the biometric identification system with its backend computing systems so that a customer’s bank record can be retrieved in conjunction with any authentication action. The bank is working with its primary core vendor toward that goal. Steen hopes to have the teller transaction integration phase of the project completed within the next few months.

Phil Britt is a financial freelance writer in Illinois.