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What is Biometrics and How Will It Be Used to Reduce Fraud? When Will It Be Available?

The term "biometrics" applies to a broad range of physical characteristics used to verify a person's identity. Fingerprint scanning is one of the most common applications, but biometrics can also measure things like DNA, eye retinas and irises, facial patterns and any other traits that are unique to each individual.

Technically speaking, vocal chords fall under behaviometrics because it's possible to manipulate speech patterns and registers. Behaviometrics (behavioral biometrics) measures behaviors to identify or recognize a person. However, companies that specialize in biometrics generally include voice recognition as well.

Until recently, biometric technology was most commonly used in law enforcement, forensics and security. For example:

  • Police using DNA and fingerprints to track suspects.
  • Casinos employing facial recognition software to monitor their hotels.

Yet the technology is gaining traction in the worlds of business and finance.  Using biometrics, it's possible to authenticate purchases by comparing a user's genetic markers with data that is already stored on file.

What Impact Will Biometrics Have on Financial Fraud?

Compared to other verification options, biometrics is more secure simply due to insufficient demand by users and thieves. Although fingerprint scanning is fairly mainstream, most businesses don’t have in-house DNA authentication technology or iris-recognition software. Consequently, criminals don’t invest in the tools necessary to circumvent these security measures.

In other words, early adopters benefit the most from biometric protection. Therefore, as more businesses use this newer technology, the less secure it becomes.  

As such, keeping customer data safe may soon require multiple authentication steps like:

  • A physical card or mobile device that must be waved across a near field communication (NFC) reader.
  • A personal identification number (PIN) that must be entered into a keypad.
  • A fingerprint or iris scan that must be verified by the system.

Believe it or not, this multi-step process is already widely used.

Apple Pay is a perfect example.  

Initiating a transaction requires that the customer scan his/her finger using TouchID technology. This is in addition to unlocking the phone with a PIN and waving the device across an NFC reader.

When Will Biometric Verification Become Mainstream?

It may be awhile before the technology becomes truly universal, and most changes probably won’t happen on the merchant side — at least not in the beginning:  

  • Biometric verification is hard to implement in e-commerce where payment gateways don’t have physical access to users.  
  • Retailers may be reluctant about making additional terminal upgrades after already switching to the new EMV standard.

The majority of new biometric applications will most likely come from smartphone manufacturers and mobile software developers — along the same lines as Apple Pay’s TouchID feature.

Should You Incorporate Biometrics into Your Payment Infrastructure?

If you’re concerned about fraud, using biometrics can help protect you and your business. However, there are more cost-effective approaches for keeping sensitive financial data safe from criminals.

To learn more, contact our payment security team today.

Topics: PCI Compliance and Fraud Prevention

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