BT is looking cybercrime in the eye

September 99 Access Control & Identity Management

Cybercrime is costing the UK 2% of its annual GDP, while a staggering 40% of internal websites worldwide have been hacked, according to a recent report released by British Telecommunications (BT). This has happened despite the fact that two-thirds of companies have firewalls in place. Last year, UK Telcos lost up to 3% of its revenue to telephone fraud, while US operators alone lose $3,7 billion (R22 billion) annually from hackers gaining access to their networks.

In an effort to combat this trend, the computer and telecomms industry is turning to biometrics. BT recognises that high-tech crime requires high-tech methods to fight it and is currently carrying out work at its laboratories in Marltesham, UK, on the use of iris recognition for authentication purposes.

Iris recognition is a biometric technology that uses the eye's unique characteristics to validate a person's identity. With more than ten times the number of identifiers than a fingerprint, the iris (the coloured part of the eye) naturally lends itself as a failsafe method of authentication. The possibility of one person's iris, which has more than 250 unique characteristics, exactly matching someone else's is virtually zero. Iris recognition identifies the user, rather than just verifying that the correct pin or the right terminal is used. The technique is non-contact and user friendly: an individual simply looks into a conventional video camera.

Research has shown that most people prefer iris recognition, with fingerprint systems tending to be associated with criminal records. BT believes that cybercrime will escalate massively in the near future.

"There are various factors contributing to this," commented Ian Gordon-Cumming, General Manager, BT Southern Africa. "IT literacy has mushroomed in recent years, vastly inflating the pool of talent available for high-tech crime. Added to this, businesses are increasingly dependent on computer links to the outside world, making it easier to access their systems."

Fast, easy-to-use and secure, the potential applications of iris scanning are not only limited to cybercrime, but range from vehicle security to fast tracking through passport control. Iris recognition systems could also be used to access telephones, computers and cars.

"As the business world becomes increasingly dependent on networks to deliver their products and services, the battle against cybercrime will become a greater priority," concluded Gordon-Cumming.

For details contact Ian Gordon-Cumming, BT (Southern Africa) on telephone (011) 807 6760.

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