iiDENTIFii recently attended the 3rd Connected Africa Summit, where iiDENTIFii CEO Gur Geva and convenor Mohammed Thoufiq, discussed how biometric authentication can secure mobile infrastructures in telecommunications. This conversation comes at a time when mobile carriers prioritise strategies and infrastructure that minimise identity theft and give more people access to mobile services.
Their talk was full of insight; here are the highlights:
Mapping out the challenges mobile service providers face
Mobile service providers in Africa are under pressure to tighten their data security due to the increasing incidents of SIM swap fraud and identity theft. Fraudsters exploit false identities and engage in SIM swap scams, posing risks to mobile users, operators, digital services, and financial institutions.
The role of SIM swap fraud in financial crime
SIM swap fraud plays a tactical role in many financial crimes. It enables fraudsters to intercept transactional verification tokens like OTPs and access mobile banking and money transfers.
South Africa’s response to mobile fraud
In response to increasing fraudulent SIM swaps and number porting threats, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) published draft regulations in 2022 requiring mobile network operators to collect subscriber biometric data. However, consumers expressed concerns about compromising their privacy, while organisations such as the Communications Risk Information Centre (COMRiC) felt that biometrics alone may be limited and challenging to implement at scale.
The response to mobile fraud in sub-Saharan Africa
ICASA is not alone in its focus on combatting fraud. The Communication Authority of Kenya (CA) set a deadline for active SIM cards to be registered with user details as a response to increasing financial crime linked to SIM swaps. However, achieving the high adoption rates they hoped for has proven challenging. Mozambique has also implemented biometric SIM registration and, from April 2023, has focused on securing SIMs and preparing the infrastructure for rollout.
The need for biometrics in combatting fraud
Biometrics, particularly facial recognition, offer secure identity verification, preventing fraud and providing certainty that users are who they claim to be. At iiDENTIFii, we believe that simple, scalable, and secure digital identity verification solutions not only enhance mobile security and consumer protection, but also enable access to essential resources such as mobile, financial, and governmental services.
iiDENTIFii’s platform offers a comprehensive solution for mobile carriers by using biometric face authentication to bind SIM cards to legitimate individuals and prevent identity fraud. By validating identification documents, RICA details, and facial images, the platform ensures that applicants are ‘live’ individuals, making SIM swap fraud a moot point and providing a secure and simple registration and onboarding process.
European mobile providers have implemented similar solutions with some success. Companies such as Ventocom, Deutsche Telekom, and Euskaltel have incorporated biometric solutions in their customer registration and authentication processes. Ventocom, for instance, streamlined its SIM card activation process using face biometrics, ensuring fast and secure customer onboarding while complying with regulations.
Addressing the concerns surrounding biometrics
Misconceptions and fears persist surrounding biometric technology. These are predominately rooted in concerns about surveillance. However, opt-in biometrics for verification and account authentication differ from surveillance. Biometric solutions, such as remote biometric onboarding with liveness detection, focus on securing institutions and clients from fraud while adhering to strict privacy laws and regulations.
Biometric identity for Africa
One of the arguments against biometric data regulations is that the infrastructure does not yet exist to roll out biometrics effectively. For this reason, iiDENTIFii believes scalability and accessibility are key criteria for successful biometric identity implementation in Africa. iiDENTIFii’s enterprise-grade face authentication platform can be quickly rolled out across devices ranging from entry-level to sophisticated smartphones. By integrating national infrastructure with local databases, such as the Department of Home Affairs, the technology ensures secure authentication and prevents identity fraud. This results in national mobile networks secured from fraud.