Digitally transforming identity ­relationships

April 2016 Editor's Choice, Access Control & Identity Management, Information Security

We have long been living in a world where technology has been used to assist and hopefully improve the business and personal tasks we complete on a daily basis. In the consumer space, however, a digital transformation has taken place which has made almost everything personalised.

This personalisation, consider how you work and play on your smartphone for example, has created expectations for the way things should work in the business world. In short, it has created an appetite among people for the same type of personal relationship in everything they do in business. In the business world to date, this type of relationship has been out of reach because of the limits of technology. Companies have simply not had the technical capabilities to create a more personalised relationship with customers on a large scale.

This is changing, however. Hi-Tech Security Solutions spoke to Mauro Solimene, VP security and API management at CA, along with Michael Horn, security head at CA Southern Africa about the digital transformation happening in the business world that will allowing more personalisation and automation, as well as increased profit per customer, if done correctly.

This digital transformation is not simply about automation, or speeding business processes up, it is all about the relationships companies have with customers, suppliers and partners. It is common knowledge that we privilege those with whom we have a personal relationship, which is why many people stick with their existing insurance broker, for example, even though they can get a better deal somewhere else.

Businesses therefore want to create such a personal relationship with customers to keep them loyal and increase revenue from each one. One way is to have a personal sales person to deal with each customer, but this is unrealistic in terms of the number of people an organisation would have to hire. We therefore need to rely on technology to do the analysis and identification of who the customer is and what their tastes and requirements are.

Central to this ideal, is a digital identity. Solimene explains that this digital identity is not simply an online username and password, or your Facebook identity, or any avatar. The digital transformation we require demands a new identity that encapsulates who you are in totality and puts your identity at the centre of the economy – global, national and personal.

Unfortunately, the more information and the more accurate the digital identity is, the better pickings there are for identity thieves and the more damage they can do if they can get hold of ‘you’. This new digital identity will therefore require advanced security technology to store, maintain and keep the identity current, and protect it.

What is this digital identity?

Mauro Solimene.
Mauro Solimene.

Solimene explains that the digital identity in question is “all digital”, consisting of a rich mixture of data that defines you. And it is interchangeable. For example, if you are travelling and you lose your passport, you are going to have a hard time. If, however, we move to a mechanism that stores our identity digitally in a safe and trusted format, your identity can be verified without requiring a passport or any individual form of identity.

Most people would assume this digital identity would be a biometric of some form that wouldn’t require additional documentation. But the fact is, whatever identity mechanism you select, it can be faked if your opponents have the appropriate resources.

So what would this digital identity consist of? Solimene explains that it could incorporate anything uniquely related to you. This includes your behaviour, tastes, relationships and basically any information that surrounds you and defines you – which can and probably will include biometrics. The digital identity is an amalgamation of all these aspects and is not reliant on one. If someone fakes your fingerprint, for example, the lack of any of the other characteristics would raise a flag.

With access to this digital identity, companies would be able to automatically tailor services and solutions to each person’s requirements and tastes, delivering personal service to all. More importantly, it will enable companies to build trusted relationships that extend beyond their traditional businesses. With a logical identity and access engine securely maintaining identities, business will be able to capitalise on its assets and see you as one individual over multiple encounters. In other words, you won’t need to give your identity information multiple times to the same bank; everyone in the bank will see you as the same person with all the relevant information about you available to them.

The difference in the creation of a single digital identity is trust. It has to be assured and secured to allow all parties to interact and develop a personal relationship. Some companies are already appointing digital transformation officers – or a similar title – to advance this development and develop an identity layer that is abstracted from the physical database, turning what was seen as masses of chaotic personal data into unique identities.

Michael Horn.
Michael Horn.

And this is not something happening far away. Horn says digital transformation initiatives are already underway in some large South African companies, looking to ensure they have the edge in gaining and retaining customers for the long term.

Understanding that it is a trust relationship must obviously ensure that security and privacy is at the centre of the transformation, yet, while being secure it must not limit the scope of organisations’ digital transformation exercises. This implies that security must be central to the organisation at every level to ensure there are no weak points through which customers’ identities can be compromised.

For more information contact CA Southern Africa, +27 (0)11 417 8645,,

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