Head Office, Johannesburg, South Africa

Biometrics: banking into the future

a-phone-biometric-technologyIt may seem pretty futuristic but the world of biometrics is closer than you think. In fact, many of us are already using it in some form or another. If a finger scanner allows you to access your office building and if you have a new-ish smartphone that comes with a fingerprint reading sensor to unlock your device, you’re already part of the biometrics revolution.

Passwords were once the standard for authentication but biometric technologies have totally revolutionised how we secure personal and confidential business information; making our eyes, fingerprints and voices the access key. These groundbreaking technologies are transforming our bodies into the custodians of data.

For banks, these innovations present opportunities and challenges. They aim to leverage biometrics to secure mobile banking platforms, integrating this technology with their security architecture, while mitigating potential security threats.

So what are some of the benefits of biometrics?

Biometrics are dependent on a single action

Rather than having to enter a lengthy password, biometrics make authentication simple. Whether you’re banking over the phone or using an online banking portal, the use of a biometric alternative, like voice recognition, replaces the need for security questions and traditional password authentication. This makes banking easier.

Biometrics lowers operational costs

Not only do things like voice biometrics streamline processes for financial institutions and consumers, they also reduce costs. Where there was once a need for banks to have call centre staff to assist consumers, these processes can all be automated. Users no longer have to remember their mother’s maiden name or come up with a convoluted password and no special equipment is required, which saves everyone time and money.

Biometrics reduces the chance of fraud

Many businesses and consumers fear that criminals will hack their account and in doing so will be able to access their personal information and steal their money. Traditional ATMs and point-of-sale machines allow anyone with your card and PIN to access your account. Biometrics adds a better layer of security, authenticating your identity with a finger scanner or iris/facial/voice recognition technology.

What is happening in the SA banking space?

In an attempt to ensure that everyone is on the same page, the Payments Association of South Africa (PASA) recently announced a specification for payment card biometric authentication.

Partnering with MasterCard and Visa, this biometrics framework enables everything from fingerprint verification to palm, voice, iris, and facial biometrics. According to Walter Volker, CEO of PASA, the specification is an industry first. “We are proud to have facilitated the world’s first truly interoperable biometric specification that will unlock the benefits of biometric verification and make it available to an open community in a way that is affordable, reliable and secure.”

The country’s top banks are all exploring biometric initiatives to prevent fraud. Biometrics not only keeps consumers safe, it also makes banking more convenient because they can draw money from an ATM, for example, with a single touch and no longer have to remember, and punch in, a PIN in order to complete a transaction.

According to Nick Perkins, Divisional Director of Identity Management at Bytes Systems Integration (Bytes SI), the benefits of biometrics are twofold. “It’s an authentication method that can’t be copied, and if someone takes your card they still can’t access your account anyway because they can’t replicate your fingerprint on these fingerprint sensors.”

Banks are always looking for ways to improve security around ATM transactions. Biometric authentication at cash points could just be the answer. At Paycorp, we’re always trying to come up with innovative ways to make payments better. To find out more about the future of ATMs, take a look at our ATM brochure.