Singapore adds face verification, multi-user SMS to SingPass 2FA

Users can now scan their face to log into SingPass as well as send an SMS one-time password to another SingPass user's mobile number.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

Singapore has added face verification as a two-factor authentication (2FA) option to log into SingPass, an account used by residents to access e-government services. They can also choose to send their SMS one-time password (OTP) to another SingPass user's mobile number, which is offered to help less digitally savvy users navigate the platform with external assistance. 

The two additional 2FA options were introduced as part of the government's efforts to support a digitally inclusive society, said Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech) in a statement Wednesday. The government agency is responsible for the country's ICT and smart nation rollouts.

SingPass users will be able to log into their account first by entering their ID and password, then by scanning their face on an internet-connected computer equipped with a webcam or a mobile device with a front-facing camera. If they do not have access to any of these systems, they can visit selected public locations equipped with the service, including IRAS Taxpayer and Business Service Centre and CPFB's Bishan Service Centre, with more locations to be added progressively.

GovTech said the face verification technology was integrated with security features to safeguard against fraud, such as liveness detection capabilities to detect and block the use of photographs, videos, or masks during the verification process.

The added option not only would be useful to support less digitally savvy users who would not need to key in additional information such as OTPs, but also could facilitate Singaporeans living abroad and might not have a locally-registered number to receive SMS OTPs, said National Digital Identity's senior director Kwok Quek Sin. 

The need to better assist the less digitally savvy also led to the inclusion of "multi-user SMS OTP", where SingPass users can link their account to another user's mobile number, such as their child, to receive their OTPs. 

The addition of the two 2FA options follows plans to discontinue the OneKey token by the end of March next year. Some 120,000 users of the physical 2FA device, introduced in 2013, are currently being transitioned to the other options, said GovTech. 

There are four million SingPass users who can tap their account to access 500 digital services, which are provided by more than 180 government agencies as well as commercial entities, such as banks. 

Singapore's Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) in October said it has been rolling out iris and facial scanners since July at all automated and manual immigration points located at the passenger halls of Singapore's land, sea, and air checkpoints. These included Changi Airport Terminal 4, Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, and the Tuas and Woodlands checkpoints that border Northern neighbour Malaysia. 

The systems would use travellers' iris and facial data, replacing fingerprints, as the primary biometric identifiers for immigration clearance. 

Singapore in September inked a deal with British vendor iProov to provide face verification technology for use in the country's national digital identity system. The security feature was launched as a pilot earlier this year, allowing SingPass users to access e-government services via biometric.

iProov's Genuine Presence Assurance technology is touted to have the ability to determine if an individual's face is an actual person, and not a photograph, mask, or digital spoof, and authenticate that it is not a deepfake or injected video. Its agreement with the Singapore government also marked the first time the vendor's cloud facial verification technology was used to secure a country's national digital identity


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