Putting an end to the password
Everyone knows what a pain passwords can be. And for people with memory loss or dementia, they are almost impossible to remember. In fintech, security is of course one of the biggest components of any digital system.
Whilst at various conferences I’ve seen many possible alternatives to the unpopular and clumsy standard of complicated passwords. One of the most interesting of these is biometrics. Literally, the unique features of our own bodies. If you open your phone with a finger or thumbprint, you’re already using biometrics. But how far can it go, and are they part of the solution for combatting fraud?
Here’s some of the range of personal features that can be used as identification. DNA, we know that one, but how about the shape of your face, or even just one ear? What about your iris pattern? Or the veins in the retina at the back of your eye, or those in your fingertip? Fingerprints, we know that one. But how about finger geometry, the shape of the whole finger? Or the shape of your hand? How about your gait, the way you walk? Or how about your odour, the way you smell?
The devices we use to access digital services are starting to have these biometric readers seamlessly built into them.
Perhaps pretty soon you won’t even need to even think about it, it’ll just be the case that only you can use your own computer, and phone, and only you can access your banking app, because the systems are reading you just as you are reading them. But then passwords will still be needed when using an unfamiliar device, another reason why biometrics are slow to be implemented.
There is a downside to this of course. Firstly, you can’t change your biometrics, even if you want to. So if somehow your biometrics are hacked and duplicated, it’s rather difficult to reset them. This is why biometrics are likely to be used as a bundle, using several features at once. I’ve seen apps that scan your eye to let you access beyond them, it looks rather sci-fi in practice, but it works.
The companies developing them were trying to sell them to banks for their mobile apps. I’ve also seen the same thing, but with full face recognition, putting the two together might be even more secure. Maybe this combined with a thumbprint reading, would be safer still.
The technology is already here to do all these functions, it’s very interesting to visit the conferences where some of it is demonstrated, but most of it never gets into the mainstream.
This is partly for technical reasons, but usually for more person centred ones. I’ve seen an eye scanning phone that frankly made me nervous to use.
And also, with regards to privacy, do we really want our highly personal biological data being collected and stored, because if it is, sooner or later it will be stolen by someone. The danger is that if our biometric data is stolen, it can be used to access our services, or create ‘digital clones’ of ourselves.
Perhaps one day we’ll be able to trust each other more, and then our potential will be so much greater than today. Here’s