Fraport boosts biometric security with Zwipe


In the high-risk airport environment, it is imperative that operators control access to sensitive areas such as runways, hangars, traffic control towers, baggage areas, data centers, etc. In most industries, an access control system that required workers to scan an ID card or enter a code would provide sufficient security. But codes and IDs can be shared, which poses risks that the airline industry cannot afford.

Biometrics – the use of biological characteristics to identify an individual – offers a solution, using techniques such as fingerprint scanning, iris scanning and facial recognition to determine whether someone is allowed to enter. an area.

For airports such as Frankfurt, which ranks as Germany’s largest workplace with over 81,000 employees, biometric access offers a way to efficiently manage the movements of thousands of workers.

In order to identify the latest biometric solutions best suited to the airport environment, airport operator Fraport recently launched its “[email protected]” project, which focuses on improving security at access control points. Staff.

Two partners have since been invited to test their technology at Frankfurt Airport as part of a pilot project. Among them is Zwipe, a Norwegian biometric technology provider. The initiative will see around 40 checkpoints equipped with its Zwipe Access solution, which will add a second layer of authentication to Fraport’s existing access control systems using the company’s card-based fingerprint reader system.

An autonomous security system

Biometrics is nothing new in aviation, having been widely implemented in the airport environment as part of efforts to improve security after 9/11. However, Zwipe is unique in its ability to reduce complex biometric access systems to the size of a credit card.

Each user receives a personalized access card containing their unique fingerprint data. Equipped with a sensor, when the card is placed near a reader, the card’s built-in verification feature compares the user’s fingerprint against the stored biometric data to determine if they match. If the verification is successful, an access code is generated instructing the control infrastructure to grant access.

The process is autonomous, that is to say that the authentication process takes place entirely within the card, powered by the radio waves emitted by the access point. As a result, a separate biometric reader device is not required and airports can enable Zwipe’s two-factor authentication without replacing existing infrastructure such as card readers and PIN pads.

By removing the need to interact with a separate reader, Zwipe claims to have reduced the biometric authentication process to just one second, making it up to six times faster than alternative systems.

“The proposition of being able to add a whole new level of security through biometrics, without upgrading, replacing or adding to existing infrastructure – reducing the cost, time and complexity of implementation – presents d ‘huge benefits,’ said Zwipe CEO André Løvestam.

mocjup showing a person holding a zwipe biometric card which includes photo ID and personal details
Zwipe’s access control cards act as a standalone biometric verification system. 1 credit

Improving airport security

As IT budgets have plummeted during the pandemic, a recent survey by ACI World and SITA found that many airports are looking to maintain or increase their IT spending in 2022. Seeking to improve security as the number of passengers and rebounds, biometric solutions are top of the industry’s wish list. According to the study, nearly three-quarters of airports plan to invest in biometric technology by 2024.

“Security-sensitive areas such as airports require a mindset and flawless security solutions,” said Christian Vaas, vice president of identification solutions and access control at Zwipe. “Any extra step is an extra security risk, and having it as an ID card covers all of these aspects to create a highly secure application.”

The use of fingerprints means that even if a Zwipe access card is lost or stolen, there is still no way for a breach to occur. Zwipe isn’t alone in offering biometric solutions, but alternatives often come with limitations that add complexity, cause discomfort, and introduce additional security risks.

For example, facial scanning systems require cameras which create privacy concerns, while fingerprint reading terminals require user data to be stored in central databases. With Zwipe’s solution, the process is entirely autonomous, using biometric data stored on the card, without connecting to additional systems required for authentication.

Similarly, the system also generates proof of presence, allowing operators to track and trace employees as they move between sensitive areas and determine who would show up in the event of an incident.

Protection of employee data

While airport security protocols have undergone many improvements over the past 20 years, recent studies have shown gaps in cybersecurity.

In 2020, two years after the adoption of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) across the European Union, IT security company ImmuniWeb found this 76% of airport websites continue to violate data protection laws. Some 97% were using outdated web software and 24% had known exploitable vulnerabilities.

GlobalData analysis shows the industry is taking cybersecurity seriously, with 49% of airport equipment, product and service supply companies actively recruiting for cybersecurity positions in February 2022.

“It doesn’t rely on a central database, which means it’s less exposed to hacking attempts.

However, like the recent Securitas data breach shows, there is still a current risk to employee and user data. In January, an unsecured server belonging to the security service provider exposed personal information belonging to 1.5 million airport workers in Latin America.

The collection and storage of biometric data does little to allay citizens’ concerns, with 72% worrying about its misuse or theft, according to a recent GetApp survey.

However, Zwipe’s lack of a central database removes the threat of a large-scale breach, essentially putting the protection of each end user’s biometric data in their own hands.

This data is encrypted and stored on government-grade secure elements within the access card, and the company says it has worked with penetration testers to check for any vulnerabilities that could compromise the data.

“It doesn’t rely on a central database, which means it’s less prone to hacking attempts and also complies with GDPR regulations,” says Løvestam. “Breaking it would require a huge investment and it’s just not an achievable value proposition for a hacker.”

Reduce staff shortages

As air travel has rebounded from Covid-19, severe staff shortages have left airports struggling to keep up with demand. United Kingdom, passengers complained hour-long delays at security checkpoints and meandering queues at terminals.

The problem is believed to be linked to recruitment problems, airports against competition the recovery of the leisure and hospitality industries.

In May, Brussels Airport had more than 1,000 vacancies, while London Heathrow said it was “rushing” to hire 12,000 new workers to meet demand. Covid-19-related absences have only compounded the problem, making hygiene a major concern for airports as the industry recovers.

Biometrics is a tricky environment when it comes to fingerprint access control.

“Biometrics is a tricky environment when it comes to fingerprint access control, which is the most common use case,” says Vaas. “Hygiene is a big concern here, and Zwipe Access covers that very well.”

Generally, Covid-19 is transmitted through close contact with an infected person. However, studies have shown that the virus can be transmitted by touching contaminated surfaces. To limit the risk of outbreaks, airports should frequently clean high-contact biometric scanners or switch to non-contact security methods such as Zwipe Access.

With users unable to share cards and no physical contact with a shared device is required, the solution reduces the risk of spreading germs among already strained airport industry workforces.

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