Will biometrics improve payment card security?
This is a guest post by Kayla Matthews, a biometrics and technology writer.
Most of us are familiar with the concept of biometrics — the science of using fingerprints and other unique identifiers to increase security.
Many smartphones are already equipped with fingerprint scanners that people can use instead of entering a password or PIN to secure their phone. Could this biometric technology be used to secure other things we use every day, like debit and credit cards?
Biometrics and Debit Cards
You’re probably used to entering a PIN or signing your name when you use your debit or credit cards. Even new cards, equipped with a chip that’s supposed to be more secure than the traditional magnetic strip, utilize these same methods of identification.
MasterCard is already starting to experiment with a biometrically secured credit card in a couple of limited markets — instead of entering a PIN, you use your thumbprint to verify your identity at the point of sale in order to complete your purchase. While it’s currently only being trialed in a few South African markets, the company is planning a full roll-out of the technology by the end of the year.
It’s not the only way to verify your card — you can still use a PIN if the fingerprint scanner doesn’t work.
Anyone who’s ever tried to unlock their phone with a fingerprint scanner knows that if your hands are sweaty or dirty, or even pruned up from being in water, your fingerprint isn’t going to read properly.
Could this new use for biometric security make debit and credit cards more secure?
Credit Cards vs. Mobile Payments
Even without a fingerprint scanner-equipped debit card, you can still take advantage of the security of biometric technology by utilizing your phone’s mobile payment apps. Almost all smartphones have some sort of mobile payment app that allows you to link your credit or debit cards to your phone and simply pay with the smart device.
While this seems very convenient and can even be a bit of a lifesaver if you need to buy lunch but forgot your debit card at home, it may not be as secure as you think.
These payment apps are secure in and of themselves, utilizing the highest level of encryption possible, but they are left vulnerable by the weak link — your cell phone. By incorporating the biometric security directly into the debit card, these new cards bypass the concerns about smartphone security and create a new and more secure payment network.
Demand for Biometrics
Is there even a demand for biometric enable debit and credit cards? The use of global biometric technology is expected to expand dramatically in the coming years, generating billions of dollars in revenue by 2022. Biometric security systems promise to make it safer to spend your money without worrying about hackers or spoofers stealing your information.
The Prime Minister of India, for example, has introduced a program that would not only rely heavily on biometrics but also eventually eliminate the need for debit cards and smart phone payment programs altogether.
It’s not a perfect solution — hackers can still steal your credit card information and utilize it for online purchases, even from current chip and PIN cards — but biometrics could potentially change the way we make purchases in the future.
Whether you end up using your fingerprint, your voice, your face, or a scan of your retina to secure your devices and money, biometrics is quickly becoming the wave of the future. The banking industry has started adding a variety of biometric solutions to their mobile applications where you can choose to use any or all of the features we’ve mentioned above to access your account information.
These security measures aren’t perfect yet — facial recognition, for example, can be problematic if you’re in a location with low light, and voice recognition might be impossible if you come down with laryngitis — but biometric security might be the best way to protect our money in the coming years.
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