No two people have the exact same fingerprint.
It is their uniqueness that makes them effective in aiding criminal investigations. Similarly, no two mobile or web devices leave the same digital fingerprint – a unique profile can be created for each one, and the technology used to develop this profile is crucial for vendors and customers in the identification, authentication and fraud-prevention space.
Organisations have long been using cookies to identify devices, but with big tech companies announcing the phasing-out of third-party cookies, this is no longer a reliable option and businesses must look to alternative methods to safely authenticate genuine users.
This is where device fingerprinting comes in – a process used to identify a device based on its specific and unique configuration. With the explosion of online banking and payment fraud using mobile and web devices, device fingerprinting has been developed to create a unique profile of an individual device to identify genuine users accessing services. It helps to create an easy, frictionless journey to passively authenticate customers and help identify fraudulent bad actors.
So how does it work and what role will it play in the future of protecting our digital identity?
The device fingerprint as an alternative to cookies
Cookies are no longer a reliable source for device identification as they are browser specific and it’s not in a consumer’s power to delete them. In addition, browser companies are increasingly stepping away from the use of third-party cookies. Google, for example, will begin its phase-out of third-party cookies in Chrome in 2024, so there is a need for an alternative solution to device identification.
In contrast to cookies, device fingerprint profiles are created using datapoints from the software configuration of the device – for example, the operating system, browser and plug-ins. These can be used to help detect fraud by recognising returning devices that have been associated with fraud.
Device fingerprinting goes beyond a digital tracking code stored on the client-side because the device datapoints are stored on the server side. There are additional attributes related to the device which provide users with an extra layer of resilience if the cookies are wiped, and it provides a more reliable way than cookies to identify a device.
Positively identifying customers while protecting privacy
Device fingerprinting provides an important piece of the puzzle when tackling fraud, but the magic happens when it’s layered with other intelligence modalities such as behavioural biometrics, threat detection and location intelligence.
For example, with advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning, solutions can collect, fuse and analyse thousands of data points to provide positively identify genuine users, ensuring trust with the online services to carry out their day-to-day tasks uninterrupted.
The layering intelligence model involves:
- Fraudulent devices being identified through device fingerprinting
- Associating this with abnormal behaviour detected through behavioural biometrics
- And combining this with high velocity location changes through location intelligence to create a total fraud score.
Importantly, while the device fingerprint profile has a deep dataset, the data is captured in a privacy preserving way and therefore doesn’t contain personally identifiable information (PII) in the device fingerprint database.
Creating a secure online world
Physical fingerprints changed the way we identify people in the past and continue to play an important role today. In the same way, digital device fingerprints are already playing an equally vital role – and one that’s only set to expand in the future.
As our online economies continue to grow, it is critical that we build digital trust and change how we identify people online. The technology we have available to us today allows us to accurately identify genuine users so they can get on with their digital lives. Organisations need to make sure they are prioritising customers by identifying people and fraud, across every journey, channel and brand.
There is an imperative here for businesses to build a strong level of trust between users and themselves. It’s clear that identity plays a big role in this, with Callsign research finding that 68% of UK consumers support the creation of a digital identity system for a more secure online world.
Device identification is one of the crucial parts of this because we largely use devices to identify ourselves online. Therefore, when considering the best way to make improvements across customer experience, fraud prevention, and business reputation, organisations must ensure they have robust device identification processes in place to see the positive knock-on impact for customers.
About the Author
Bhavesh Vaghela is VP Global Product Growth at Callsign. Callsign is pioneering digital trust through proprietary technology that uniquely mimics the way humans identify each other in the real world. Positive identification of genuine users delivers privacy, safety and minimal friction whilst ensuring that bad actors are blocked. Through a simple Swipe or Type, users can be personally recognized to a 99.999% accuracy, delivering the highest fidelity AI based user recognition for the digital world.
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