OCBC ATMs to begin offering facial recognition for transactions

OCBC's ATMs will be able to perform only account balance enquiries using face verification for now. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE- OCBC customers who wish to do so can key in their NRIC number and face a camera to check their account balances at the bank's ATMs.

OCBC said the new facial biometrics feature for ATMs will eliminate the need to carry an ATM card, which can be skimmed or stolen.

The ATMs will be able to perform only account balance enquiries using face verification for now.

An ATM at OCBC Tampines Centre 2 will offer the service from Friday (March 19), and another, at Taman Jurong Shopping Centre, from Monday.

Six more will be operating by the end of next week, the bank said on Thursday. They will be in Pickering Street, OCBC Tampines Centre One, HDB Hub, 103 Yishun Ring Road, a Geylang Road 7-Eleven outlet and the bank's learning and development centre, OCBC Campus.

The use of biometrics authentication by financial institutions is not new and has been deployed for online financial services and phone banking, said the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

An MAS spokesman said: "MAS does not prescribe any specific technology to be used for authentication, and financial institutions are encouraged to innovate to meet their customers' needs for security and convenience while ensuring that MAS' requirements on strong security controls, data confidentiality and responsible use of data are met."

The face verification feature will be extended to cash withdrawals at all 550 of OCBC's ATMs in Singapore progressively from June, and extended to other ATM transactions, including cash deposits, fund transfers to other banks, CashCard top-ups and credit card bill payments from next year.

Account balance enquiries and cash withdrawals are the most-used ATM services, making up close to eight in 10 of all ATM transactions performed by OCBC customers.

Since July 2019, customers have been able to scan a QR code on ATMs using the OCBC Pay Anyone app to withdraw cash.

OCBC is tapping on Singapore's National Digital Identity infrastructure and Singpass Face Verification technology to securely verify customers for banking transactions without cards at ATMs.

To use the face verification feature, bank customers can select a service they want before entering their NRIC number on the ATM screen. They will be prompted to position their face within a frame on the screen, while a Web-enabled camera scans their face and verifies it in real time against the national biometric database which OCBC's ATM network is digitally linked to.

Once the scan is verified, the customer can proceed with the ATM transaction.

The feature is embedded with security properties to prevent fraud, including liveness-detection technology that blocks the use of photographs, videos, or masks.

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OCBC's consumer financial services head, Mr Sunny Quek, said digital adoption within the bank has grown year on year last year with more than 40 per cent more customers signed up on PayNow, and PayNow transactions doubling from 2019.

QR code cash withdrawals at OCBC ATMs also grew 88 per cent year on year in 2020.

"While cash is still a key mode of payment in Singapore, the digital overlay to get cash is welcomed by consumers... With many customers already embracing QR cash withdrawals without having to use an ATM card, face verification will add a layer of convenience to more customers as they access our banking touch points," Mr Quek said.

In 2015, OCBC enabled customers to authenticate access to their mobile banking app to access their banking information using their fingerprints, and subsequently their face in 2017.

Last July, the bank leveraged the National Digital Identity infrastructure to introduce an alternative digital login using the customer's Singpass to access digital banking services, which eliminated the need for customers to remember multiple access codes and PINs.

DBS Singapore country head Shee Tse Koon said customers have been benefiting from the convenience of facial verification technology since last July.

He said: "From retail to small and medium-sized enterprises account opening, clients have been using the Singpass Face Verification feature to apply for their digital bank accounts.

"As an organisation that is at the forefront of digital banking, DBS will continue to explore ways to expand the use of face verification and emerging technologies in our digital services and self-service machines to deliver a hassle-free and joyful banking experience to our customers."

More than 25,000 customers have used the Singpass Face Verification technology to date, with most of them using the feature to securely retrieve their digibank user credentials, he added.

Meanwhile, UOB said it did not have plans to roll out facial recognition at its ATMs at present.

Ms Janet Young, Head of Group Channels and Digitalisation at the bank, said: "Amid the prolonged pandemic, our customers' safety is our priority. To use facial recognition at ATMs means that customers have to remove their mask in public to scan their face."

"We will continue to study the needs and preferences of our customers to provide them with a safe, reliable and relevant banking experience always," she added.

She also said almost all of UOB's ATMs are contactless, and allow customers to store their bank cards on their mobile phones and tap the devices on the ATMs before keying in their PIN to withdraw cash.

Commenting on OCBC's ATMs with facial recognition technology, Mr Feixiang He, senior threat intelligence analyst at Singapore-based cyber-security company Group-IB Feixiang, said: "PINs could be defeated by ever-growing phishing attacks. Physical bank cards (can be stolen). The biometric features are generally viewed to be harder to abuse than knowledge and ownership factors.

"The combination of NRIC and facial recognition provides a two-factor authentication which further improves the security."

The feature could also pose a threat as determined criminals will no longer steal an ATM card, but may force the victim to visit an ATM to withdraw money instead, said Mr Jeffrey Kok, vice-president of solution engineers at CyberArk for Asia-Pacific and Japan.

"As biometric technology advances, so do the attackers' levels of sophistication as they develop new social engineering and attack vectors. However, this risk can be mitigated by our strong law enforcement measures, the surveillance methods that protect our ATM infrastructure and public education, which serve as very strong deterrents," Mr Kok said.

OCBC said it has implemented security measures to protect customers and their transactions at ATM machines, including closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage, and remote CCTV viewing and video analytics to enhance the monitoring of the bank's ATMs.

The new feature also drew mixed reactions from OCBC bank customers.

Said civil engineer Rion Tng, 35, who uses OCBC ATMs at least three times a week: "I probably won't use the ATM till it has been proven safe. I'll be wary at the start since I've read reports that there were ways to fool Apple's Face ID face-recognition technology."

Others feel more secure with the technology.

Nurse Suliha Bivi, 53, uses OCBC ATMs two to three times a week. She said: "There has been a lot of ATM scams and frauds happening recently. I feel more relieved that with the face recognition feature, it will be more difficult for scammers to break into an account."

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