Can South Africans bank on biometrics?

9 Oct

In an article earlier this year we looked at Mastercard’s trial run of the biometric card in South Africa and this particular topic is one that is close to our hearts. The new Mastercard requires the consumer to use their fingerprint as a digital form of identification in order to authorise a purchase on their card, which in a nutshell is what biometrics is all about.

With financial institutions and banks across the globe looking to biometrics to create user-friendly banking and financing interfaces, the question of security and just how easy it will be for hackers to find a loop hole, begs to be answered.

Biometrics defined

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of biometrics is ‘the measurement and analysis of unique physical or behavioural characteristics (such as fingerprint or voice patterns) especially as a means of verifying personal identity’. The biometric security that banking and financial institutions plan to use include:

  • Finger print scanning
  • Iris scanning
  • Voice recognition
  • Facial recognition

Is the convenience worth the security risks at play?

Instinct leads us to believe that biometric security should be a safe means of authorising transactions, but is it really? The more steadfastly banks and financial institutions look to biometric security measures; the more attention cyber criminals give it too.

What are the risks?

While the data for your biometrics is stored locally on your device and is safer than most forms of data, the concern is about what will happen if the data (not your eyeball or fingertip) does per chance, fall into the wrong hands.

With a traditional user name and password security authentication, data can be updated and encrypted if there’s a breach, but what happens with biometrics which cannot be changed? Although technologies are constantly evolving to strengthen app security and systems, making it difficult for a cybercriminal to steal your identity, it’s still not impossible.

Tech advancements that will help with securing biometrics

As biometrics become more of a potential convenience, solutions have been developed and technology is advancing to such an extent that methods are already in place that add additional layers of security. Intelligent machines are now able to help banks and financial institutions in setting multiple security assessments in place to ensure that the person using the biometrics is indeed the correct person. Some of these assessments include:

  • Behaviour
  • Appearance
  • Voice
  • Typing speed

Another way to ensure that the biometric data is safe is to split the data between the user device and data storage centre. In this way, if either the device or storage is compromised, hackers won’t have access to all the information required to use the data.

Protect yourself against potential data loss and cybercrime by ensuring that your backups are scheduled and encrypted before it ends up in the wrong hands. Not if – but when, biometric banking makes its way to all South Africans, data security and backup will play an even bigger role in protecting the integrity of your business.

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