Is biometrics the answer to secure and easy online payment?

Demanding and tech-savvy users continue to exert extreme pressure on companies to solve the convenience versus security conundrum. This is where a seamless customer experience and data security intersects. Growing cyber risk has ushered in the need for watertight methods of protecting personal data. According to the South African Fraud Prevention Service, identity theft is costing the country at least R1 billion per year and has increased by more than 200% in the last six years.

While the payments industry is currently working full steam on various forms of biometric technology aimed at thwarting ever-increasing security breaches in payments technologies, biometrics have been around for quite a while and the technologies take different forms.

Today, most mainstream biometric recognition is based on fingerprint, palm, iris, facial and voice recognition. Alongside these physiological recognition methods come behavioral biometrics that can recognize a person based on his or her typing rhythm (called keystroke dynamics) or walking gait (which is based on an individual’s movement patterns).

MasterCard is currently piloting its new biometrics app, MasterCard Identity Check, which is set for a widespread launch in 2016. The app combines facial or fingerprint recognition as well as the recent human obsession, selfies. It remains to be seen whether Mastercard have solved the problems associated with lighting and background. All fingerprint scans remain on your device and facial scans are linked to the cloud so that templates will transmit and remain safe on MasterCard’s servers.

Behavioral biometrics are currently considered less reliable than the physiological system, but as this technology is still in its early stages, this premise could change.


Is it Really Secure Enough?

Biometric data can be stolen, lost or otherwise compromised while being stored. Unauthorized access to biometric storage devices through corporate sabotage by disgruntled employees is a growing threat to privacy. So too, is the misuse of a biometrics, given that the biometric itself cannot be changed. Once compromised it will continue to be an issue for the life of the donor, as opposed to a password which can be easily changed.

Researchers are seeking to create an optimal arrangement of biometrics and tokenization layers that will ensure high-level security. The ultimate solution technology may involve using a mixture of several forms of biometric authentication, such as skin temperature, palm veins and voice recognition.

The issue of protecting individual data will only grow in importance. In order to reap the convenience benefits users must prepare themselves for more disciplined and multiple information security practices in future.



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