Biometrics is a special type of technology that uses metrics (i.e. measurements) that are directly linked to human biology (i.e. physical characteristics). Because no two people have the exact same genetic makeup, it's possible to use biometrics for identity confirmation or surveillance.
In the financial world, banks and credit card issuers can authenticate transactions by matching users’ biometrics with information stored on file.
Some of the more popular biometric data includes:
- Facial patterns
- Retinal scans
Voice also falls in this category, but it is usually classified as behaviometrics since vocal cords can be consciously manipulated.
Will Biometrics Have a Significant Impact on Fraud?
Yes — at least for a while. Note that obtaining biometric information isn’t very challenging. After all, you leave fingerprints on everything you touch and DNA on every fork you use. However, the software and equipment necessary to use these biometrics hasn't become mainstream. Because so few companies use biometric security, demand for hacks and workarounds has remained relatively low.
By contrast, the tools used to clone magnetic stripes and copy credit card numbers are extremely easy to come by. Thus, merchants who continue using traditional payment systems will remain attractive targets as biometric authentication becomes more popular.
We're already seeing this happen to some extent in the retail world. Merchants who delay upgrading to the new EMV standard are easier targets for would-be thieves. Given the choice between traditional swipe and sign credit card readers and chip-ready terminals, most criminals will choose the former.
Eventually, however, criminals will adjust their approach. Over time, facial recognition software or fingerprint cloning machines will become standard tools in every hacker’s arsenal.
Protecting your customers' financial data will likely require a combination of older and newer security measures. In addition to retinal scans, for example, shoppers may also have to provide personal identification numbers (PINs) to complete a transaction.
When Will Biometrics Become Widely Available?
In a way, the technology is already quite popular. Apple's TouchID is a perfect example. Available on the iPhone 5S, 6 and 6 Plus, this feature allows users to unlock their mobile devices and initiate purchases with a biometric fingerprint scan.
Yet, almost as soon as TouchID was released, the Chaos Computer Club managed to bypass it. The process wasn't easy — it required exacting measurements and expensive materials. However, this example highlights how no single security measure is 100 percent foolproof. For optimal protection, both users and merchants should combine several authentication steps.
Clearly, if a thief wants your data badly enough, there is very little to stop him. Though requiring that he obtain your voice, fingerprint, signature, and PIN will make you a much less attractive target — especially when so many other consumers still rely on older (or fewer) forms of verification.
Have More Questions about Advanced Payment Security?
If you have additional questions or concerns about payment security, let us know. At BluePay, we offer a broad range of fraud prevention tools to help keep your customers’ financial data safe.
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