When the new iPhone 8 was released on September 12, users left behind the Touch ID fingerprint scanner and entered a new biometric realm: facial recognition software. But Apple isn’t the only company pushing this new security authentication platform forward.

“We were looking for a biometric solution that was more secure than fingerprints and that would cover a wide range of applications without requiring a significant investment in hardware infrastructure,” said Safe America Credit Union’s Vice President of Technology John Gracyalny.

“We want to be able to use a single authentication solution enterprise wide and for every digital member touchpoint that we have, from ATMs to self-serve kiosks to mobile apps and internet banking, as well as at the teller line and even staff logins to our network and our core processing system,” he added.

John Gracyalny, VP of technology at Safe America CU
John Gracyalny, VP of technology at Safe America CU

Safe America CU has entered into beta testing with 3DVerify by the Cape Coral, Fla.-based SensibleVision. Over the last 10 years, the company’s patented face authentication solution has been ready for adoption, but the demand was only realized in recent years due to smartphone proliferation, explained George Brostoff co-founder and CEO of SensibleVision.

“There is a degree of transparency [for users] in interacting with their device and replacing the need to enter passwords or swipe a finger,” said Brostoff. “The device knows who they are. The app knows who they are. Not only when they enter the password, but the entire time. This means if I share my device with some else, it becomes the other person’s as soon as I hand it to them.”

Brostoff explained that SensibleVision’s advanced depth/3D liveness solutions can detect videos, photos and even masks; the latter is a cyber crook trick. If the image lacks the three-dimensional characteristics of the user’s face, the app/device stops. Authentication typically takes less than one second (after the camera provides depth information) and the solution can be used on all 3D camera-ready devices dating back to 2012. The company has more than 10 million users.

“These are possibilities we scarily considered even just a few years ago,” said Brostoff. “It goes beyond facial recognition because it continues to monitor who is in front of the device.”

Getting 3DVerified
From a technology perspective, Gracyalny said implementation will have a relatively small impact on IT staff as he plans to push software out to its PC workstations remotely. The $435 million-asset Safe America Credit Union supports 85 employees, five of which serve the IT department.

“Member-facing cams will have to be mounted on the teller line monitors. I expect that a single page, primarily dedicated to the initial enrollment process of capturing the 3D image will be all that we will need to provide,” he said adding that rollout to the CU’s 35,000 members will be in 2018. “Enrollment and ongoing use of the system will become part of our standard new employee onboarding training.”

Safe America CU will also be rolling out a new mobile banking app via the Mountain View, Calif.-based BankJoy. Gracyalny said the company is also providing the credit union’s internet banking product. And since the company supports fingerprint authentication, he said they had a “good handle” on biometrics.

“We engaged with them late in 2016 as they were finishing the design of their next-gen system, so the ability to interface to 3DVerify was built into the design requirements,” said Gracyalny. “We are working with our core system provider, Corelation, to decide if their staff or ours will do the integration into the core for use with staff logins and authenticating members on the teller line. We are also working with a self-service kiosk vendor as well as an ATM middleware vendor to integrate into those devices.”

Proof positive
When asked if there is any chance of the app falsely recognizing a user, Brostoff said there is a 100 percent false acceptance rate. Gracyalny concurred.

“During IT staff testing we had no failures to authenticate and no false positives, it appears highly accurate at the distances it will be used for,” said Gracyalny. “Authentication depends on a proprietary 3D construct made from multiple angle photographs, so the system cannot be fooled by a photograph,” he continued. “We have enough trust in the system that the initial internal implementation will be as the final authentication step for any employee with system admin privileges, which are the most sensitive logins that we have.”

While Brostoff anticipates that there won’t be many early adopters like Safe America Credit Union in the near term, he estimated that market drivers like the iPhone 8 will encourage more credit unions to climb aboard.

“Credit unions want to provide a personalized experience for its members,” he said. “This will offer them a better experience.”

Even though Safe America CU is considered a leader in adopting facial recognition software, Gracyalny said he “wished” the he rolled out the solution last fall.

“I would expect by the end of next year – at the very latest – that all the major mobile banking platform providers will either be offering facial recognition or at a bare minimum, showing it as a key component of their R&D roadmap,” he said. “I would expect that within the next three years most mobile banking users will have adopted it. Mobile is a selfie world and this is a logical and easy to sell upgrade to security.”