Keeping Payments Information Safe Just Got Personal

Two is better than one, especially when it comes to protecting a consumer’s identity.

Multi-factor authentication, which is often something you have, like a token or card, and something you know, like a password, makes it harder to hack an account. But imagine if that something you have is unique to you, like your voice or your fingerprint. Suddenly, what was hard to hack before is now next to impossible to penetrate.

Banks, along with payment companies, merchants and a slew of other businesses charged with safeguarding user information, are turning to biometrics to bring added security to valuable goods and personal data.

Biometrics provides the opportunity to offer an even higher level of security to their customers’ money. While there is potential for companies to use voice as an authentication tool, the future of digital security lies in tapping multiple biometrics—using technology that can measure and analyze unique physical traits.

According to eMarketer, smartphones are expected to be in the hands of 4.55 billion people worldwide this year. Unfortunately, much of the mobile activity taking place is putting users’ personal data at risk without them even knowing it. When we consider mobile applications, the risk has infinitely more significance because it contains the keys to your financial livelihood.

Already, multiple mobile device manufacturers like Apple and Samsung are leveraging biometrics through ‘Touch ID,’ allowing a user’s unique fingerprint to unlock his or her device. We’ve also seen banks like Wells Fargo and Barclays test and roll out programs using voice biometrics to verify identity.

Biometric technology alleviates the need to continually change and memorize your password or PIN number every other month, offers a nonreplicable identifier, and simplifies the verification process for users. For these reasons and more, we see a shift away from the age-old password to the enactment of multiple biometrics on mobile devices.

It’s easy to assume that hacking is a targeted offense, but more often than not, the attacks are opportunistic. The truth is a lack of identification layers and the amount of easily accessible personal data on smartphones today makes for an easier hack. All it takes is a simple piecing together of credentials—email, name, and password across different accounts—to create a profile with your personal information.

Biometrics can act as your first line of defense against hackers. The more difficult it is to steal your personal information, the less appealing it will become.

Think about how many passwords are used to access devices and apps, and log into online shopping and social media accounts. There’s a good chance that more than one account shares the same password. And if you’re not using the same password across multiple accounts, then you’re likely committing dozens to memory or scribbling them down on a sticky note, which poses a security problem in and of itself.

This is where the added layer of biometrics comes into play. Your fingerprint, heartbeat, eyes and voice are all unique physical traits that can be utilized as means to authenticate the owner of the system or account. These unique qualifiers have no need for excessive post-it notes or memory games.

With the utilization of multiple biometrics, there are a number of benefits. For example, instead of a 4-digit PIN, service providers could implement both voice and facial identification measures to access your account. Making a transfer across accounts could be as smooth as repeating a phrase, allowing the technology to recognize you by the sound of your voice. If hackers are confronted with biometrics, manipulating the account holder’s information becomes drastically more difficult.

Although biometrics is a unique way to identify users, they’re not secrets. We leave our fingerprints everywhere we go, and virtually anything we look at could pick up our iris scan. Unfortunately, the more advanced and ubiquitous our security systems get, the more advanced hackers will become. We cannot eliminate vulnerability and risk, but we can find ways to decrease financial hacking.

Education is key. Consumers need to know where their personal data is being stored on their mobile device and how easily it can be accessed. At the same time, institutions need to better equip consumers with ways to protect and guard their identity. Biometrics have the potential to change the way personal data is safeguarded in a digital era. The question is whether issuers are ready to add biometrics to their security arsenal.


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