ImageWare CTO Talks About Cybersecurity Threats and Growing Worldwide Traction of Biometric Authentication

David Harding, SVP & Chief Technical Officer, ImageWare® Systems,  sat down with Mobile ID World to talk about cybersecurity threats and the global growth of biometric authentication.

Mobile ID World: ImageWare recently introduced the ImageWare Digital Identity Platform, what makes this new solution standout in the biometrics market and how does it fit in with the rest of ImageWare’s product line?

David Harding: First of all, Peter, thank you for having me. The ImageWare Digital Identity Platform combines the most robust identity proofing capabilities with the broadest and most complete set of multi-factor and biometric authentication methods. At ImageWare we have always had a robust platform and a robust set of products for two-factor and multi-factor identity authentication as well as full identification capabilities. But now, with complete integration of all these products, all factors of identity proofing and authentication are combined into a cohesive product set. This allows our customers to create and manage digital and biometric identities using fully vetted government issued documents, reliable biometric authentication, and a fully managed digital identity life cycle.

So, the ImageWare Digital Identity Platform affirms our long history as a pioneer, an innovator, and an industry leader in the field of biometric identity management. In our recent launch, we introduced our new mantra that organizations put identity at the center of their security strategy. Our brand statement, “Identity is the New Perimeter” cements our strategic differentiation from our competitor’s approach to security.

Mobile ID World: We are seeing a lot of growing interest in biometrics in the enterprise space. The Digital Identity Platform that was announced at RSA fits into that. High profile data breaches and the way we work has changed with the rise of the sharing economy, remote contract workers – that has all really made identity proofing and authentication an important aspect of the enterprise discussion. How does ImageWare’s Digital Identity Platform fit into this new modern workplace?

David Harding: That is a great question. To answer it, allow me to highlight a few of our key strengths in that area:

One – we can use any type of authentication device: mobile devices, desktops, laptops, physical access control devices, anything.

Two – we integrate not just at the endpoint but at the enterprise authentication source. Many products try to sit out at the end of what they define as the perimeter, which is known in the industry as the ‘Whack-a-Mole’ approach to security. Instead, we integrate at the authentication source. For example, Windows Active Directory covers over 80 percent of enterprise authentication. We are directly integrated into Windows Active Directory for both two-factor and multi-factor biometric authentication. We do the same thing with Linux, IBM ISAM, ForgeRock, CA SSO, SAP HANA, and more.

This centralized authentication capability solves that ‘Whack-a-Mole’ approach and instead provides full 360 degree identity authentication capability because identity is the perimeter. It’s not a desktop, laptop, or mobile device.

Three - we are verifying the identity prior to enrollment. That ensures that the identity enrolled is the identity in question. We provide an option for users to capture an image of their Driver’s License, Passport, or other ID card and take a selfie as part of a seamless onboarding process. Our technology validates the authenticity of the ID card and biometrically matches the photo with a live selfie to ensure the user is who they say they are. Our robust identity proofing platform supports over 500 government-issued ID cards, and can check against over 100 identity service providers for further validation as desired for specific industry use cases.

Mobile ID World: I really love how “Identity is the New Perimeter” is evident throughout your platform. Because of how the workplace has changed, it is all mobility centric and there is nothing really more mobile than your identity and it is just an extension of the enterprise now.

Moving onto something you touched on in the last response about multimodality – biometric technology has been embraced by mainstream consumers and not just fingerprint recognition like it was five years ago, but voice, face, and iris biometrics are all really familiar to the average user. What effect has this public embrace of multimodal biometrics had on the industries that ImageWare serves?

David Harding: At ImageWare we have always believed that the adoption of multiple biometrics was inevitable because no one biometric satisfies all authentication needs. For many years I have said that biometric authentication will only be successful if it is situational, environmental, and personal. Those are the three criteria that any biometric or set of biometrics has to meet.

Let’s break it down and start with situational. “Situational” means that the biometric or the biometrics employed must meet the situational need. In other words, that type of biometric authentication has to satisfy the security requirements presented. Are you logging into your network, are you making a financial transaction, are you accessing your healthcare information? Does that biometric truly satisfy the security requirement for provision access?

“Environmental” means the biometric has to work for the current environment that person is in. Is it too dark? Then face might not work. Is it too loud? Then voice will probably have issues. Can the person even use the biometric that is being requested?

And then finally, “personal”. Will that biometric or biometrics work for the individual? Is there an aversion to using the biometric? A good example is a study that was done a few years ago regarding authentication using someone’s face. They determined that some people don’t like having their picture taken first thing in the morning. In that case, face authentication is not a good choice at certain times of the day for certain people. Many people don’t like to use voice authentication in public; they feel it draws unnecessary attention to themselves. And fingerprint as you mentioned, which is the granddaddy of consumer biometrics, has some inherent issues. Roughly 30 percent of the population doesn’t have an easily read or readable fingerprint. There are a number of reasons for this which include what you do for a living, your hobbies, even your genetics. I personally happen to be one of those 30 percent due to two of those factors: genetics and I’ve been a musician for over thirty years and literally worn down the ridges of several of my fingertips.

To successfully implement a biometric authentication solution, it has to be multimodal. That’s the only way to achieve maximum population coverage and adoption.

Mobile ID World: I really like that idea of a nuanced biometric for every situation especially as how work has changed but also from a consumer device perspective. I live in Canada and it is too cold to not wear gloves outside for a lot of the year so I can’t use my fingerprint sensor without risking frostbite. But also, in lab situations where you are wearing gloves, you are wearing goggles, it just makes a lot of sense to have that choice factor so I think that is really great.

You also mentioned earlier some of ImageWare’s partners and you have a really impressive partner network including big names like Fujitsu, IBM, Verizon, ForgeRock, among others. What makes a robust partner network so important in today’s biometrics landscape?

David Harding: It took a lot of work over several years to put our partner network together. The companies that you have mentioned are leaders in scalable identity management. However, they are not leaders in scalable multimodal biometric platforms that can support hundreds of millions of identities across multiple biometric modalities. So, the partnerships we have cultivated are very symbiotic and complementary. Not only do we provide a proven, award-winning, turnkey authentication platform solution, but we have seamlessly integrated that platform into our partner’s identity management solutions. It is the best of both worlds. We have partners with massive global reach and customers while we provide the ability to authenticate identities anywhere, anytime using a number of two-factor and multifactor options.

Our competitors often make similar promises. However, they don’t provide the scalability nor the extent of capability and features based on the depth of our multimodal intellectual property and multi-patented technology. That’s why our partnerships are such a great fit.

Together it is a win-win for everyone but especially for the customer.

Mobile ID World: Fantastic. Moving on to another big trend of 2019 - healthcare has been the big market on everyone’s mind when it comes to biometrics. We sort of see it at Mobile ID World as being in the beginning stages of a 5-year boom like how mobility was in 2013. ImageWare is already established in healthcare and is seen as something of a pioneer for bringing biometrics to that space. How has the healthcare biometrics market changed in recent years and what do you see as driving this new interest?

David Harding: Healthcare data is significantly more valuable than most banking information. If your credit card is stolen or your bank account gets compromised, it’s a relatively quick fix. Banks have adapted and can issue you a new card, change your account number, and even resolve any losses incurred.

Healthcare data is different. It’s not just about hackers looking for money. We’ve witnessed adversarial nation states attacking other nations and stealing health records of their populations. We’ve even had that happen here in the United States. That’s why identity authentication has never been more critical to securing private healthcare information. Unlike financial data, personal healthcare information is extremely personal, sensitive, and it doesn’t change. It’s shocking that the vast majority of health records are secured by PINs and passwords, which have an 81 percent failure rate. That is the equivalent of trying to secure your home with all of your valuables and your loved ones in it with a lock that fails 80 percent of the time. Put in those terms, it is easy to see why the healthcare industry is moving to multimodal biometric authentication to secure this type of highly sensitive and personal information.

To that point, ImageWare Systems recently announced that a global leading payments and financial technology provider has selected our GoVerifyID biometric authentication solution. Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act in 2016 that mandates states implement Electronic Visit Verification (EVV) for all Medicaid personal care and all health services beginning in 2020.

This technology provider is embedding ImageWare's GoVerifyID SDK into their existing Electronic Visit Verification (EVV) solution which is used by major healthcare agencies across the United States. These healthcare agencies will use ImageWare's biometric authentication service to identify the caseworker visit and for confirmation that the customer received prescribed health services at home.

Not only will this combined solution enhance our customers’ Enhanced Due Diligence compliance, it will reduce cost and minimize the risk of fraud, while improving the overall efficiency of home and community-based services.

So, we see healthcare just as you do - a rapidly expanding market for multimodal biometrics.

Mobile ID World: Congratulations on the news, that is very exciting. You were mentioning that there is a huge cost aspect to it but healthcare is also fascinating I find because there is also a real public health improvement component to it as well. A topic I’m really interested in is how biometrics in healthcare can be used to combat the current opioid crisis and ImageWare is one of the only biometrics’ players taking a proactive stance in this area as exemplified with your recent partnership with Gatekeeper Innovation. How are ImageWare and Gatekeeper helping mitigate the opioid crisis?

David Harding: These powerful drugs are necessary in certain cases. In early 2000, healthcare providers began prescribing them at greater rates resulting in today’s national opioid addiction crisis . Many of us know people who have been directly affected and the toll it continues to take. The National Institute of Drug Abuse reports that more than 47,000 Amercans died in 2017 and more than 130 die every day to opioid overdose. (Source: https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis).

Using multimodal biometrics, patients and healthcare providers can be authenticated prior to having access to these powerful drugs.

Mobile ID World: Fantastic. I think that it is a really noble application of our technology so it is really excellent to see ImageWare working on that so proactively.

Taking on a wider picture of everything, and we have touched on some of this already, but what are some highlights of ImageWare’s 2019 so far?

David Harding: Well 2019 is turning out to be an exciting year, and what can you expect to see from us? More and better: more partners, more integrations, more biometric options, more two-factor and multi-factor capabilities, new platform enhancements including increased scalability and efficiency, and most importantly, more success.

At ImageWare, we continue to invent, innovate, and deliver. It’s what sets us distinctly apart in this competitive landscape. We stand proud with over 22 patents world wide and more than 25 pending.

A final note: stronger passwords don’t work. We’ve seen how they fail. Even two-factor authentication on its own has significant vulnerabilities that can be exploited. We’ve all read the recent headlines regarding the Citrix 2FA breach. Equifax is considered the most catastrophic data breach in history. Name brands such as Marriott, MyHeritage, and Uber have all been victims of data breaches, as have billions of their customers.

So, we have to ask ourselves, don’t we all have a social responsibility to provide a safe and secure world? At ImageWare, we believe we do. Our continuous innovations, supported by over 20 biometric technology patents worldwide help make that a reality.

Mobile ID World: Fantastic! I can certainly say that we at Mobile ID World wholeheartedly agree with you David and thanks for taking the time to talk with me today.