Sep 01, 2022
4 min read

Liveness Detection: Choosing a Solution That Won’t Let Fraudsters in

All about liveness technology and why it’s your best chance against fraudsters.

“Know Your Client” (KYC) and “Anti-Money Laundering” (AML) regulations demand a high level of confidence in the security measures businesses use, which is why biometric liveness detection is part of almost every identity verification solution on the market. Yet very few of these offer protection against advanced fraudsters, who know all the tricks for bypassing liveness. And when liveness solutions fail, companies can suffer immense reputational and financial losses.

In this article, we’re going to dive deep into liveness detection. We’ll cover the types of solutions out there, what makes for a good one, and how fraudsters try to spoof them.

What is liveness detection?

Many of us regularly upload pictures of ourselves on the web. The question is: does this make us more vulnerable to various types of identity theft?

Not if our accounts are secured with proper liveness detection. This technology uses biometrics to ensure that we’re physically present before granting access to our accounts. So, no, hackers won’t be able to get around a liveness check by using your Instagram selfies.
Liveness detection detects deepfakes, inserted videos, 3D masks, and other presentation attacks through image-processing, face-mapping, and motion detection. Read on to see how it works in more detail.

How does liveness detection work?

Liveness detection analyzes a person’s biometric data using machine-learning algorithms. Most often, it’s associated with facial biometrics.

It works by utilizing a neural network, which is capable of distinguishing between real and ‘fake’ faces. The system scans the applicant’s face, creates a 3D Face Map, and then applies deep-learning to discover intricate structures in the data. 

For the user, the process typically entails staring into a camera, performing certain movements or completing specific tasks (such as pronouncing random words), depending on what’s required by a given solution.

Here’s how Sumsub does it—check it out, it’s very easy.

Thanks to machine learning, this technology can detect a person’s biometrics and liveness with over 99% accuracy, therefore providing better customer protection.

Liveness and “Know Your Customer” (KYC)

Liveness is a means of conducting “Know Your Customer” (KYC) procedures. It has two types: passive, which takes just a few seconds, and active, which can take longer.

Passive liveness typically uses a single image to detect and analyze liveness. 

Active liveness is when the client needs to perform an action, such as blinking, speaking, or head movements in front of the camera. 
For both types of liveness, biometric samples are collected from the applicant. Neural networks then analyze parameters such as skin texture, light, and shadows to determine whether the person is truly present.

Which liveness type should you choose?

Both types of liveness deliver highly accurate identity verification by working in different ways. Still, one type might suit a business better than the other. 

To make the right choice, businesses should:

  • consider their specific use case;
  • keep their customer base in mind;
  • stick to a risk-based approach;
  • balance customer onboarding and safety.

Active liveness offers the ultimate protection by asking users to perform random tasks in front of the camera.  Passive liveness, meanwhile, requires no actions from the user, resulting in the smoothest possible UX.

In any case, a certified liveness solution would be your best choice.

How frauds get around liveness check

Unsophisticated liveness systems can fail to detect when fraudsters use other people’s photos to pass the check. Given enough ambition, a catfish can use a printed picture with cut-outs for the eyes and mouth, and blink into the camera themselves. Try this trick yourself. The results may surprise you.

Basic liveness checks can detect simple movements—blinking, smiling, and head tilts. However, these movements can be done when wearing a mask. So, wearing a mask just like you see in the picture, you’d be able to trick a basic system.

Emotion detection can make liveness solutions more advanced. This feature captures the position of facial muscles and screens for micro-motions. This way, a static face with no facial expressions and movements won’t be able to bypass the check.

Read further: Masks, Animated Pictures, Deepfakes…—Learn How Fraudsters Can Bypass Your Facial Biometrics

Random tasks are your secret weapon

The hardest task for liveness solutions is detecting pre-recorded video, as these have the right movements and there’s dimension to them.

Random tasks assigned to the user—like smiling or blinking—during the verification routine can help. The more tasks you have and the more complicated they are—the stronger your fraud protection is.

You have to think about conversion, however. So don’t create tasks that would inconvenience your users, as they’ll simply abandon the process.

Do it Sumsub’s way

Many platforms have been tricked by masks, printed images, videos, and avatars. We’re here to offer stronger identity protection measures. Here’s how our liveness works:

​​Sumsub offers both active and passive facial biometric liveness, with advanced and secure technology built into both.

  • Active is for clients seeking more sophisticated protection;
  • Passive is for clients seeking a simpler UX.

Here are the steps you need to take when performing liveness detection with Sumsub.

We decided not to assign random tasks, as doing so would lower conversion rates. Instead, we employ state-of-the-art technology to detect if fraudsters have hacked a device or inserted a pre-recorded video. This allows us to keep onboarding flows simple while providing bulletproof security.

Here are the main ways to use Sumsub’s liveness technology:

  • KYC checks

Liveness is an alternative to a regular selfie/selfie +ID checks.

  • Payment fraud prevention

Face authentication prevents chargebacks by ensuring that the true user performs the transaction.

  • Two-factor authentication (2FA)

An additional biometric check ensures reliable protection of the user’s account without passwords or SMS codes. Customers may do the same for re-verifying user identities if passwords or devices are lost.

  • Duplicate accounts detection

Duplicate detection happens at the sign-up stage via a face scan that checks if the user has been seen before.This way, liveness won’t allow bonus-hunters to create multiple accounts to exploit sign-up offers, promotions, pricing plans, etc.

  • User actions confirmation

Users are protected from account takeovers with a simple biometric check that determines who’s really behind the screen. This ensures that the true user initiates transactions, account deletion, or other key steps.

  • Biometric verification

This eliminates the need for physical presence (at a bank, office, etc.) during identity verification. 

  • Securing physical entrances

Biometric technology may also be used to control access to doors, gates, and other entry points.

At Sumsub, we aim to make liveness identity verification quick, safe, and easy. Talk to our team so we can help you boost conversion while providing bulletproof security.

AMLBiometricsFraud PreventionIdentity VerificationKYCLivenessMachine LearningSecurityTwo-Factor AuthenticationUser Experience