Friday Feature: There’s now a secure, human interface to your digital world

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  • According to a market forecast from Juniper Research there are currently 13.4 billion web-enabled devices in the world, and that number is expected to balloon to an extraordinary 38.5 billion connected devices by 2020. The Internet of Things is fast becoming the Internet of Absolutely Everything.

    While digital connectivity is being integrated into a vast array of “things”, from cars to home appliances to entire houses, airports and government facilities, in many cases the cybersecurity technologies that underpin and secure those devices have struggled to keep up with this digital revolution.

    For instance, passwords and PINs are essentially analogue cybersecurity solutions – they served their purpose during the web’s early years, but as hackers become ever-more sophisticated those outdated security credentials could represent an exploit-in-waiting.

    First-generation biometrics

    Early biometric authentication technologies, such as fingerprint readers and iris scanners, offered a much more secure response to the cybersecurity threat when companies began integrating them into digital devices a few years ago. They also had the added benefit of being readily available (at the touch of a button or the blink of an eye, so to speak), and didn’t require web users to remember a series of complex passwords or four-digit PINs.

    That said, first-generation biometrics are far from perfect. If a hacker is able to get hold of a user’s fingerprints, for instance (perhaps by hacking into a police database…or more simply, by piecing together the partial prints from an individual’s computer keyboard or smartphone screen) then those copied authentication details could be used to gain access to the user’s digital devices and online services.

    If only there was a biometric authentication credential that wasn’t so easy to copy…and a biometric reader that offered the inherent ability to confirm whether the user is providing a live biometric reading or attempting to use a copied identifier.

    Luckily, there is. It’s time you met the Northern Irish startup that was recently recognised by Gartner as a Global Cool Vendor: B-Secur.

    Second-generation biometrics

    B-Secur’s innovative cybersecurity solution leverages a biometric identifier that’s much harder to steal or duplicate than fingerprints and iris images – an individual’s unique heartbeat signature. The Belfast startup’s technology employs medical-grade ECG (electrocardiogram) to read a person’s unique heartbeat algorithm, and uses Big Data analytics and machine learning to analyse that algorithm and verify the individual’s identity.

    Unsurprisingly, a person’s heartbeat is generally much more difficult for hackers and cyber-criminals to copy than a fingerprint or even an iris image. And should a hacker get hold of a recording of a user’s heartbeat signature, B-Secur’s machine learning capabilities will ensure the recording won’t be mistaken for a live heartbeat – a feature known as ‘liveness detection’.

    B-scalable

    B-Secur’s ECG technology has a vast array of potential applications – from securing financial services products, to handling physical access control at airports and government facilities, to using heartbeat signatures as the basis for ‘fuzzy extractors’, which can be used to secure electronic patient records.

    B-deployed

    In fact, the startup is already working with one financial services company to develop biometric ATMs, and is partnering with another banking firm to launch the world’s very first ECG-secured smart debit card.

    Beyond finance, B-Secur is working with a company in the US to develop secure wearable devices, such as a smart watch that features integrated biometric authentication, and is collaborating with a FTSE-listed construction and facilities management company to develop highly secure physical access controls for commercial buildings.

    B-ahead

    In many ways B-Secur is a startup ahead of its time – some companies, even huge multinationals, are only now beginning to incorporate first-generation biometrics into their products and services – witness, for instance, HSBC’s announcement this week that it will allow business customers to verify their identity by taking a selfie, aka by using facial recognition.

    B-Secur is a home-grown Northern Irish startup that is demonstrating to businesses around the world why they should take a quantum-leap right over those already-outdated biometrics, and get on board with the real power of second-generation biometric authentication.

    To achieve that mission, B-Secur will need two things – funding, and talent.

    The startup has a round of seed funding under its belt from a hedge fund in London, and is gearing up for a Series A later this year. When it comes to talent, B-Secur has a team of 14 right now, and is currently recruiting a Senior Data Scientist through our tech community at Sync NI.

    The company is also planning to recruit for a number of other key roles in the weeks and months ahead, so if you’re keen to join a biometrics startup that’s ahead of its time: watch this space.



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    ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Phil Hoey is Editor and Marketing Manager for Sync NI. He loves to write about any and all tech, but is particularly passionate about fintech, cybersecurity and the Internet of Things.

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