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Cyber and physical security are inseparable

Biometrics and pattern recognition, coupled with data from internet of things sensors, will provide the fabric of future smart ecosystems

A comprehensive approach that brings together analyses of people, places and patterns might be the best hope for establishing secure environments – both online and in the physical world.

A whitepaper, entitled Advanced Recognition Systems: The new paradigm in Asia-Pacific, developed by Frost and Sullivan for NEC Australia, noted that cyber and physical safety could not sensibly be separated and a more holistic approach should be taken.

Paul Howie, general manager of smart systems for NEC Australia, said this came at a time when a wider set of sensory inputs to recognise situations or patterns – including the internet of things (IoT) – has become available for analysis.

He acknowledged the need to strike a balance between security and privacy, but noted that in controlled public spaces such as airports, stadiums or casinos, there were clear benefits of knowing who was where, when and doing what.

For example, a monitoring platform deployed in a Colombian sports stadium plagued by troublemakers had leveraged face-matching technology to reduce incidences of violence to zero, according to Howie.

In Australia, NEC had worked with casinos to monitor visitors, and is currently exploring ways to enable a private education provider to verify the identity of people who have signed up for online tests in an effort to guard against exam fraud, said Howie.

According to Frost and Sullivan, a combination of biometrics and pattern recognition, coupled with data from IoT sensors, will provide the “fabric” of future smart ecosystems.

The challenge will be navigating the fine line between identification and mass surveillance – an issue raised by opponents of the federal government’s GovPass identification platform that is currently being tested.

Read more about cyber security in Australia

The opt-in scheme will require people to provide details from a birth certificate or driver’s licence which will then be verified. Individuals will also need to provide a selfie that can be matched against existing biometric databases for authentication purposes. GovPass will replace password-based logins for multiple federal government services in future.

According to the Digital Transformation Agency, GovPass should take no longer than 10 minutes to set up. It also stressed that it will only match the data provided to create GovPass accounts against existing databases, and will not keep the data.

A different approach has been taken in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW). Instead of having one identifying “key” to let someone through dozens of government services, Service NSW has been established to create a single digital “front door” to 970 state government services. Acting general manager Damon Rees said more than 1.5 million people have signed up for the service.

For now, the NSW Government is observing the progress of GovPass and is not yet participating in the national GovPass scheme, according to Rees.

Although the NSW and federal governments are bent on providing streamlined access to government services, NEC’s Howie acknowledged the need for clarity on the purpose of such systems, and to distinguish between those used for authentication and surveillance purposes.

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