Digital identity verification ‘crucial’ to success of education post-COVID, say experts

Digital identity verification is important for maintaining a positive, safe educational environment and providing reassurance for parents and guardians, say Simon Osman of tested.me and Philipp Pointer of Jumio

Simon Osman, CEO, tested.me:

Q. How important do you think testing for COVID-19 is for getting schools back to a level of normality?

Testing is hugely important in the education sector. The countries who have fared best in the face of rising COVID-19 cases are those who have tested as many people as they can, as quickly as possible. The public and private sectors need to work together to ensure testing is accessible, affordable and frequent enough for school staff. The impact of more home-schooling on future generations cannot be understated. We need to move quickly and do everything we can to support one of our most important sectors.

Q. In an ideal world, how would testing be rolled out across the education sector?

While mass testing is the first step, I believe that having the ability to digitally verify and share your test results is key. With testing becoming more commonplace, we will quickly need ways to share our test results securely, whenever we need to and wherever we go. The education sector needs innovative technology to stay secure and focus on doing what it does best. My prediction is that, along with mass testing increasing in frequency, we will quickly see digital health verification app usage become a new part of our everyday lives.

Q. How can increased testing instil confidence in returning to work – particularly staff and teachers?

Increased testing means that education staff and teachers can feel confident coming to work and keeping our schools open, despite a rise in national infection levels. We need those working in our education sector to be supported by the right infrastructure. Right now, testing isn’t nearly accessible enough, and it needs to be.

“The public and private sectors need to work together to ensure testing is accessible, affordable and frequent enough for school staff” – Simon Osmon, test.me

Q. What kinds of technologies could help here? 

In our work with schools so far, we’ve seen that thermal scanner integrations are particularly useful in keeping staff secure and saving time. Ultimately, schools are under a huge amount of pressure and technologies – such as health verification apps or secure digital identification symbols – can help. What’s key is that the technology they install is easy to use and simple to integrate. Schools don’t have the technical infrastructure or capacity for complex software. It’s our job to ensure any solution that’s produced is created in direct response to the biggest problems they’re facing right now.

Philipp Pointner, chief product officer, Jumio

Q. The education sector has seen a number of data breaches in recent years. How can testing platforms ensure security of data and build trust with users?

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Testing apps are harvesting a lot of PII (personal identifiable information) and that data must be protected from prying eyes. This means it needs to be encrypted in transit and at rest (within data centres). This means that app providers should seek out identity verification solutions that have been accredited and vetted by third -party security organisations, such as PCI-DSS and ISO-27001.  If we want consumers to use these apps en masse, they must be confident that their personal data will be treated with the utmost security and privacy by third party identity verification solutions.

Q. If testing is increased with more data being processed, how can schools and other educational institutions ensure that the result matches the real person and is legitimate?

Matching real-world and digital identities is vitally important when it comes to these kinds of testing platforms. At the end of the day, if the person using the service is actually accessing someone else’s health status, the whole process becomes futile.

The healthcare space is particularly vulnerable to impersonation fraud. Over one billion patient health records can be obtained on the dark web and more records are being added daily. For this reason, it’s essential that companies can verify that a person accessing information is who they say they are. The move away from the vulnerable password-based authentication is absolutely vital in order to prevent opportunistic fraudsters from taking advantage.

The most watertight way of doing this is through a Know Your Patient (KYP) process, which begins when a person opens an account. The process starts by requiring the individual, be it a teacher or pupil, to capture a picture of their government-issued ID (e.g. passport) via their smartphone or webcam, and then take a corroborating selfie. During the selfie-taking process, a 3D face map is created to ensure the person behind the ID is the person creating the account. This kind of technology ensures that the ID document is authentic and that the person pictured in the selfie matches the picture on the ID. Students and staff alike can then be authenticated on each subsequent login by capturing a new 3D face map and comparing it to the original one captured at enrolment. This process ensures that the person logging in is the same person who created the online account. 

“Over one billion patient health records can be obtained on the dark web and more records are being added daily”  – Philipp Pointer, Jumio

Q. How can companies instil trust in testing platforms and services? 

Testing platforms are going to be essential as we move into the next phase of life and as the government recently outlined, is a clear tool for moving the UK forward. However, the health space has seen large-scale data breaches in recent years and as such, confidence and trust in any kind of digital testing system is understandably going to be low.

It will therefore take a combination of both a strong KYP process, to fundamentally prove that the system is giving an accurate answer; and the ability to prove that the data processed is safe. Therefore, working with technology partners to capitalise on their expertise is going to be crucial in instilling trust. Harnessing the verification and authentication technologies that have been so successful in other industries will go a long way in ensuring that legitimacy.


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