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Social Innovation

Wave Goodbye to Flawed Security with New Biometric Hand Gestures

From fingerprints to finger veins

Lost passwords will soon be a thing of the past as technology takes online security to a deeper level

If you’re always scratching your head trying to remember 101 passwords and PIN codes, take heart – soon they’ll be unnecessary and obsolete. In fact, in a few years’ time we’re likely to consider a wave of a hand to be more secure than even touch authentication or facial recognition technology.

For many years passwords have been the failsafe security measure used to keep important information, like our bank details or our email correspondence, private. But with the advent of cyberattacks, passwords which can be easily lost, shared or guessed, no longer offer adequate protection. According to global research and advisory firm Gartner 40 per cent of all contact made to IT service desks is password-related – a costly enterprise.

Technology has already developed alternatives. Many of us are familiar with using touch ID on our smartphones and some also use facial recognition technology. But these forms of identification are far from perfect too. Firstly, the ID information is held by the device rather than centrally – if you lose your phone or tablet, your fingerprint is of no use to you, as you can’t use it to access your details on another device. Secondly, fingerprints can easily be stolen to be used, and facial recognition technology isn’t able to adjust for ageing, or distinguish between twins, for example.

“We’ve known for years the fallibilities of current authentication methods, but a viable alternative wasn’t available,” says Ravi Ahluwalia, General Manager at Hitachi Security Business Group. But now a safe and easy-to-use alternative has been found. Most of us know our fingerprints are unique to us, but did you know the pattern of your veins is too? Back in 2005, Hitachi decided to take advantage of this, and patented an ID system based on the veins in our fingers.

To verify your identity all you have to do is raise your hand in front of an in-built computer. The system uses infra-red light which, when shone is absorbed by haemoglobin in the blood, showing the veins to the computer as a unique pattern of dark lines. That image is captured, analysed, securely stored and when multiple finger patterns are matched, access can be granted.

The technology was officially launched and demonstrated in London, in September 2019, and is already considered to be one of the most secure biometrics in the world, being adopted and used by banks for authorising transactions, password replacement, single sign on and ATM machines, in Japan, North America and Europe.

There are multiple advantages to finger vein technology: Fingervein ID is more secure, as it’s not possible to steal a vein pattern in the same way you can a password or a fingerprint; it’s more effective in the long term as vein patterns don’t change with age; and most importantly, it’s convenient – it’s as easy to log in to online banking as it is to high-five a friend.

Overall, it is a great example of how Hitachi contributes to society and improves quality of life. The technology is part of Hitachi’s commitment to partnering with clients, together developing technological solutions to improve the security of and access to data. This ultimately contributes to a safer society for all.