Putting an end to the pass­word

Yorkshire Post - Business - - VOICES - Bird Love­god In­de­pen­dent Fin­tech Con­sul­tant

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

hop­ing.

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