Digital Identity

Helping FIs Answer The Question 'Who Are You?'

Mitek On Answering The Question 'Who Are You?'

For Stephen Ritter, the question “Who are you?” has never been more important.

As the chief technology officer of identity verification solution provider Mitek, he said he knows that question had an easy answer in the past. The question of “you” was confirmed by a driver’s license or some other kind of civil certificate, such as birth certificate or wedding license. Now, identity is verified hundreds of times a day in everything a consumer does, from buying goods and services to interacting with payments systems and even visiting the doctor. And with a pandemic still raging, new issues have come to the fore.

The way Ritter sees it, digital transformation has affected the fraud picture as much as the pandemic. As the shift to Digital 3.0 continues, he urged businesses to find new approaches to adopting identity verification. For example, in the financial services sector, the company has found that the percentage of banking products consumers access through digital channels has jumped from 43 percent to 76 percent over just the past two years — and about 90 percent of those products can be opened from mobile devices.

“I tend to have a bit of a security mindset around identity,” Ritter told PYMNTS CEO Karen Webster. “And specifically, I see something influenced heavily by research we’ve done on that side of the fraud spectrum. COVID is no different than any other kind of macro trend. It’s what the fraudsters tag onto because it’s the most current opportunity. Just as a fraudster might use a popular celebrity to get people to open their phishing emails, they’re going to use COVID for the same thing. And that’s exactly what we’re seeing.”

For Ritter, that means making sure that the digital identity of any person is rock-solid — and that starts with making sure the physical proof of that identity is authentic. As he noted, Mitek incorporates artificial intelligence (AI) to perform complex tasks invisibly in the background.

Those government-issued IDs that look like they could be easily spoofed actually contain millions of tiny, detailed checks, comparisons and measurements, which Ritter said Mitek Mobile Verify authenticates by unleashing hundreds of AI bots to swarm over the image. Algorithms check the portrait on the ID to make sure it’s a human face, examining image quality and looking for indications of photocopying or digital alteration. Machine learning (ML) algorithms examine font usage and consistency.

Those checks, once the bastion of financial institutions (FIs) and merchants, now also extend to the workforce — much of which is remote — and the handling of sensitive information once only accessed at physical places of business.

“I would encourage all businesses — from restaurants to dry cleaners to bars — to start thinking about what it means to provide the services we offer,” Ritter said. “And think about not just how they’re provided remotely to customers, but to employees as well.”

Identity By Selfie

Ritter, an advocate of facial biometrics, said the method is a useful and effective tool for FIs that want a reliable way to verify an accountholder’s identity in a digital world. Its efficacy is in its use of liveness detection, which establishes that unique identifiers are from the actual user rather than a fraudster.

A person submits an identity document and a single selfie image to verify his or her identity, which is analyzed for facial comparison and composition such as texture, lighting and other factors to detect any form of impersonation.

It’s also an identity verification tool that Mitek is extending across all digital channels, using a multi-layered approach that simultaneously evaluates for printed photos, video replays, low-quality and realistic silicone masks, dolls and mannequin faces. In beta tests, customers saw significant improvements in detecting impersonation attempts.

Ritter acknowledged that biometrics have recently come under heavy scrutiny for their potential use in mass-surveillance schemes — and that’s why Mitek actively monitors the use of its technology by not permanently storing any biometric data and by designing highly secure software systems to protect it during processing.

Ritter said that the pandemic has accelerated the conversations that he and his Mitek colleagues are having with their banking partners and their renewed interest in exploring the use of digital technologies to strengthen the integrity of identity assurance across their institutions and the many use cases where digital identity verification is required.

“I think this current period of time has advanced the conversation[s] that we're having with our banking partners,” he said. “The hope is that we can [work with them] to help mitigate those risks.”



The How We Shop Report, a PYMNTS collaboration with PayPal, aims to understand how consumers of all ages and incomes are shifting to shopping and paying online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research builds on a series of studies conducted since March, surveying more than 16,000 consumers on how their shopping habits and payments preferences are changing as the crisis continues. This report focuses on our latest survey of 2,163 respondents and examines how their increased appetite for online commerce and digital touchless methods, such as QR codes, contactless cards and digital wallets, is poised to shape the post-pandemic economy.