BioConnect on quest to make passwords extinct

Rapid advancements in technology will soon make passwords a thing of the past, the team at BioConnect believes.

The Toronto, Ont., based biometric identity platform provides solutions for identity management, access control, data center security and human resources issues.

Vice president of business development and strategic marketing Bianca Lopes said BioConnect founder Rob Douglas started the company with the goal of finding a better way to identify and implement biometric solutions, which were becoming increasingly realistic mass market security options.

Bianca Lopes

Bianca Lopes

“The iPhone enabled biometrics to be used by the average person,” Ms. Lopes said. “So why not for second factor payments?”

Since the iPhone’s introduction there has been a surge of interest in frictionless authentication methods that do not compromise security, she added. While early efforts revolved around perfecting singular authentication methods such as voice, fingerprints, iris scans and facial recognition, those solutions on their own were incomplete because they needed a fallback plan in case they were compromised.

The default fallback plan was password protection, which comes with its own security risks, not to mention the need to memorize yet another combination of numbers, letters and symbols.

A better solution involves multiple biometric confirmations requiring no additional steps from users, Ms. Lopes explained.

“Fingerprints and facial and eye recognition, along with behavioral biometrics, play a passive role for the consumer.”

Rob Douglas

Rob Douglas

This formed the foundation for BioConnect’s recent partnership with Visa, with the goal of eliminating the password bypass and replacing it with multi-factor biometric authentication. In a blog post on Visa’s website, their senior vice president of risk and authentication products Mark Nelsen provides a an example of the process in practice.

“Imagine you’re heading home from the gym and want to check your account balance on your bank’s mobile app. But your fingers are a bit damp from exercise and the fingerprint sensor can’t get a good read. What then? With the Visa/BioConnect technology collaboration, presented on the mainstage at this year’s Money20/20, you can use an alternative biometric, such as speaking into your phone’s microphone to authenticate by voice, giving you a convenient, keyboard-less alternative to entering a complex alphanumeric passcode. With multiple types of biometrics supported by an app, it becomes possible to make the password a thing of the past.”

Because our personal biometric identifiers are unique, they can carry over to new devices, which can simplify the often cumbersome process of transferring data after upgrading a phone or computer.

“The beauty of it is the fact it exists in many forms,” Ms. Lopes added. “It gives people choice.”

The transition to biometric authentication is significant, especially when it has to be integrated with banks’ legacy technology systems, Ms. Lopes said. Many cannot take simple data input if it is not standardized in one form, and even then it can be a challenge. Partnerships with companies like BioConnect are crucial.

Eliminating passwords should greatly reduced the incidence of fraud, BioConnect’s communications and event strategy director Jessica Gagner said, as more than 60 percent of fraudulent activity in some studies are phishing expeditions focused on obtaining user names and passwords. Biometric authentication will force fraudsters to try alternative methods, that will be hard to develop.

“It’s hard to consistently be someone else you’re not,” Ms. Gagner said.

It also places an important responsibility on the firms providing these security services.

“It comes down to where trust is going to lie and who is the custodian of that,” Ms. Gagner added.

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