Fingerprint authentication introduced by Vietnam bank

The UK biometric experiment failed because it was too expensive with too little business benefit; that is, it did not attract new customers. But there is a big difference between the UK market then, and the Vietnam market now: in Vietnam, 80% of the population does not have a bank account – and literacy issues makes it difficult to open and operate an account. “Most of the clients we are working with,” explained Lee Volante, director business solution group at Temenos, “are trying to serve the unbanked or people who aren't literate. Biometrics makes this much more efficient as the bank can assign a trustworthy identity to the customer themselves.” Biometrics in Vietnam is designed to combine attracting new bank customers (by making banking easier) with greater protection against fraud.

The initial indication is that there is great potential for success. “Preliminary research,” said Nicholas Chee, deputy CEO and head of consumer business at MDB, “shows that an overwhelming 91% of customers surveyed after activating their debit card would recommend that their family and friends sign up for the product.”

The system associates the user’s fingerprint, via a scanner installed on the bank’s ATM machines throughout Vietnam, with the user’s account. Since it is a one-to-one match any potential biometric error rate is not an issue. “When the customer inserts his debit card,” Volante told Infosecurity, “we pull his reference template from the database and match it to his scanned fingerprint. The error rate for this type of matching is extremely low. We are usually only concerned with false positives with one-to-many matching where the a customer scans his finger and the system searches the entire database of enrollments for a match.”

This can and will, he added, “prevent the most common fraud which is impersonation – where I pretend to be my brother and withdraw all of his money from the bank.”

The system is designed to meet ISO, ANSI and FBI PIV standards, which specify things like the required number of data points on a fingerprint record, and interoperability between scanning devices. The devices in this instance are provided by NCR. The traditional fear with biometrics is that copies, or even severed body parts, can be used to fool the system. But, explained Volante, “current fingerprint scanning devices have advanced features that have the ability to detect and reject latent fingerprints, copies of fingerprints, and so on. They actually look for the depth in the ridges. The fingerprint scanners provided by NCR on their ATMs have this capability. Some devices also have liveness detection and look for either blood flow or temperature - so a rubber finger or a cut off finger wouldn't work.”

Biometric authentication is an integral part of the Temenos T24 core banking system. While MDB’s use of biometric authentication is Temenos’ first Asian customer, the system is already in use in banks across Africa.

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