Biometrics is the science of recognising an individual based on his or her physical and behavioural traits. They are widely considered to be more reliable than established password systems for verifying individuals and ensuring they are who they say they are.
Recently, HSBC and First Direct announced a voice and fingerprint verification system to help their customers tackle the issue of forgotten passwords. For voice recognition, HSBC is relying on software developed by Nuance Communications, the company behind Apple’s Siri virtual assistant. To use it, HSBC customers will have to record their “voice print,” and Nuance’s technology will analyse it for more than 100 unique identifiers, with the software still working even if a user is sick. Both banks have also turned on Touch ID on their apps for Apple devices.
Other examples of biometrics include palm print, face and vein recognition, iris and retina scanning, DNA matching and even odour recognition.
A significant increase in digital, online and mobile banking services has pushed secure customer authentication to the priority list for most banks and financial institutions, and banks cannot afford to jeopardise their security, especially in terms of data protection.
Traditional methods for customer authentication such as passwords, PINs and tokens are now obsolete, easy to forge, and can’t protect consumer information from being compromised.
While it remains to be seen how effective this is with widespread use, biometrics are expected to become so over the next one to three years, due to the sharp rise in sophisticated bank fraud and the increase in identity theft throughout banking systems. Thus prompting a demand in a more secure method to identify customers that does not rely on something they have or something they know, but rather, who they are.
One of the key reasons why biometric authentication technology hasn’t been implemented more widely however, is due to the costs and complexity of designing and deploying a biometric infrastructure to prevent banking fraud, even though a quarter of UK consumers are ready to share data about their DNA for identification purposes.
Earlier this year, Mastercard announced at the Mobile World Congress that it would roll out an app this summer that allows people to approve online payments with selfies and fingerprints, making traditional passwords obsolete. And UK banks are not the only ones exploring new ways of making safe and secure mobile banking a reality. Deutsche Bank is considering passwords with biometric security, such as facial recognition, while Intel and Microsoft recently released a new facial-recognition software called Windows Hello. Last year, Alibaba showed off new technology as well, called “Smile To Pay” that will allow users to make mobile payments by simply scanning their face.