Biometrics are shaping the future of digital banking

August 3, 2016 - 

This is a guest post by Paco Garcia, CTO at Yoti

From blockchain to IoT solutions and digital challengers; the world of banking has been going through a series of changes in the way interactions with customers are carried out. As a result, the financial sector is introducing new and innovative products on an almost daily basis to ensure engagement stays high and loyal customers don’t sway.

That’s why we’re seeing more ground breaking technologies enter the world of financial services, such as biometrics. Some may dismiss fingerprint or selfie logins as gimmicks. In reality, as we are seeing a shift in attitude towards online security, they are becoming fundamental elements in our everyday lives.

The time is now for biometrics in banking

In recent years, we have seen both hardware and software manufacturers look to biometrics as a solution to pressing security threats. Ever since Apple launched its TouchID and Samsung introduced its fingerprint scanner, using the human body as a form of authentication to access our personal information has become the ‘norm’. Biometrics Research Group has predicted that the technology will generate approximately US$9 billion worth of revenue by 2018 for the biometrics industry.

The rise of biometrics is also down to high street banks introducing such technology to secure their products and services. The industry is faced with huge competitive pressure from FinTech companies offering the same service with more ease. As a result, to ensure they stay on top of their game, we have seen many high street banks introducing security measures that five years ago consumers would have never heard of.

For example, Nationwide has launched behavioural biometrics for its customers in the UK, adding a whole new level to a ‘personalised customer experience’. HSBC is now offering voice recognition, and MasterCard has invested in selfie authentication to support its offering. These launches are enhancing the notion of security and consumers are starting to consider other safety measures as the ‘norm’.

In terms of user experience, not having to remember passwords and usernames will make consumers’ lives easier. As we all know, login details should be strong, complex, and random – but with biometrics, as long as the right anti spoofing measures are in place, a face or fingerprint is enough. Customers are jumping at the chance of using biometrics rather than traditional authentication methods that require them to constantly reinvent “password123”.

Biometrics – now a business decision

With all this in mind, it is clear why the financial services industry is now waking up to biometric technology. It is fast becoming an enterprise level security solution that not only fits with customer behaviour, but also brings cost benefits and improved security.

However, we need to remember that there is no security silver bullet. There is a variety of authentication technologies for businesses to choose from and often it can be best to take the attitude of strength by numbers. In this case, strength by factors of authentication.

An example would be the combination of a cryptographic key, another reasonably strong authentication vector, like a PIN, alongside biometric technology. Of course, we can add more factors of authentication to the list. However in the process of trying to be unbeatable, it often comes at the expense of the user. They often end up resorting to their original insecure security measures just for the convenience.

User experience vs security

Changing customer behaviour, combined with the sensitivity of data at risk, creates exceptional challenges for the banking industry. An adaptive authentication system that caters to context and to the risks, is key to finding that perfect combination between user experience and security.

If you are making a high value transfer on your online banking, in a public space and using a potentially insecure free Wi-Fi, you will almost certainly benefit from a stronger authentication method. However, if you fancy scrolling through your friend’s Instagram holiday pictures on your way home from work, a different level might be required.

The biometrics trials in high street banks we have seen recently are a reflection of the public’s changing perception about this technology. Ultimately, it presents an opportunity for security professionals to build out their products and services to find the balance between security and a seamless user experience. I look forward to seeing how the initiatives from the likes of HSBC and Nationwide play out and contribute to the continued growth of the industry. We are witnessing very interesting developments within this space at the moment – however, not one technology alone suits all purposes. It is important to take the time to find a level of security that suits you, your company and your customers.

DISCLAIMER: BiometricUpdate.com blogs are submitted content. The views expressed in this blog are that of the author, and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BiometricUpdate.com.

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About Paco Garcia

Paco Garcia is the CTO at Yoti. His background is in the space industry; he worked at the European Space Agency and Airbus in the classified secure testing of the constellation of satellites for the Galileo navigation system and was technical lead for the assembly, integration and test of the fifth satellite payload. He’s been involved in the cryptography and security aspects of military telecommunications satellites. He holds a degree in Electrical Engineering and a Masters in Computer Science & Telecommunications from Malaga University & Virginia Tech