22 September 2017

Kenya: Now Lenders Grapple With Biometrics

At least 2.5 per cent of the people who try to use biometrics for identification fail because the machines cannot read their fingerprints.

The challenge is particularly common among senior citizens whose fingerprints have worn out over time.

Banks and government institutions that pay pension and social welfare allowances, have to resort to complementary documents, such as identity cards or passports, and signatures.

A report by Financial Sector Deepening Africa titled Biometrics in Digital Financial Services, says banks are more likely to rely on third-party identification to meet customer due diligence requirements in most transactions.

Finca Uganda, a microfinance deposit-accepting institution, and Equity Bank Uganda have embraced biometric technology while Crane Bank says it plans to install it in its ATM network to eliminate use of passwords and secret codes.

In Kenya, Standard Chartered, Equity and Guaranty Trust Banks have biometric access systems that allow customers to use their fingerprints to log into their accounts.

Banks are betting on biometrics to curb fraud, seeing as financial institutions in the region have reported losses running into millions of dollars through cyber crime. The loss in Kenya is above $15 million.

But, technology specialists worry about the dangers that come with biometrics, as they are not changeable like passwords, in the event the system is compromised. Banks, therefore, need other elements to prevent fraud.

In Kenya, cyber security is at the top of banks' boardroom agenda, especially after the global ransomware attack dubbed WannaCry in May this year.

The Central Bank of Kenya has now introduced cyber security guidelines to help banks deal with cyber crime and prepare for emerging threats.

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