The University of Turku is one of the largest universities in Finland and has about 20,000 students in its eight faculties. About 7.1% of students are international students coming from abroad. In the spring of 2020, the University of Turku encountered the challenge of verifying the identities of international students for the student’s enrollment. New students had to go through identity verification processes, where it met the criteria for strong identification.
Verification of a student's identity is a prerequisite for a student who has been granted a place to study in order for them to access an ID, and gain subsequent secure access to the university's systems. Sending IDs by registered mail however was not a viable or secure option during the pandemic. In addition, on-the-spot identity verification on the basis of an identity card (such as a passport), was also not possible due to the international travel restrictions.
The university therefore developed its own temporary solution for verifying identities, through video-based calls. However, this required the input of several employees during the busiest period, and in addition, each identity verification event lasted an average of 30 minutes.
The University of Turku was well aware that remote identification based on a video interview with its own staff was resource-constraining and only a temporary solution. The goal was to have an efficient solution available to securely, remotely and with high assurance verify the identities of international students. The key to the identification was the increased level of security of the eIDAS framework and the identification required accordingly, regardless of the country or platform. It was also important for the university for the remote authentication solution to not require the user to install a separate application on a computer or mobile device. The solution also had to work on devices other than Android or iOS. The Signicat remote authentication solution met all these criteria. In addition to this, the university emphasized Signicat's long international experience and reputation as a reliable partner.
The solution provided by Signicat includes an identity card, such as a passport ID or driver's license check, a comparison of the user's self-portrait with the image on the ID card, and a so-called “liveness” check. The check asks the person to smile or turn their head in either direction. This will ensure that no photo alone is used to verify your identity. At the same time, it ensures that there is no robot behind the event.
The introduction of the new solution has brought considerable savings to the University of Turku. Instead of authentication events being handled manually by many university staff, authentication is now fully automated. This saves an average of 30 minutes of working time per identification. Remote authentication can also be done at any time, where the student no longer needs to set aside time for a video identification call accelerating the enrolment process.
The platform-independent solution also ensures that university support staff do not have to spend resources and time resolving technical compatibility issues, which was previously the case. The remote authentication implemented with the Signicat solution meets the increased security level of the eIDAS framework, i.e., it corresponds to an authentication transaction performed with Finnish online banking IDs.