How Will Biometrics Impact the Credit Card Industry?

How will biometrics impact the credit card industry?

Despite the best efforts and advances of security technology, credit card fraud is still very much a thing in the UK. According to some polls, nearly one in ten UK adults were defrauded via debit or credit card between mid-2017 and mid-2018, accounting for over £2bn in losses.

Biometrics, as in security technology that utilises biological data, might just be the answer to such statistics. So, how will biometrics help the credit card industry going forward?

Why it makes sense?

Currently, many payment authentication systems use ‘two-factor authentication’ (TFA) to prove a user’s identity. The two factors in question are ‘something you own’, as in the physical payment card or device, and ‘something you know’, like your card’s PIN or the password for your phone.

Of course, there are issues with TFA practices. Cards can be cloned, stolen or hacked, as can passwords and PINs. All these are relatively prominent risk factors that are vulnerable to manipulation from hackers and fraudsters.

Biometrics introduces a third layer: ‘something you are’. Biometrics use a unique physical characteristic of the user to verify identity. Common examples are fingerprint, facial, iris and voice recognition. Naturally, it’s much more difficult to steal or counterfeit someone’s biological data than a card or PIN code, plus biometrics are completely unique to every single customer.

Therefore, biometric security offers huge promise in the fight against credit card fraud, as well as offering increased accessibility for users.


How will it be incorporated?

Mastercard is one of the big names leading the biometrics charge. In the last few years, they introduced Identity Check Mobile, where consumers can use fingerprint or facial recognition technology for payments. Likewise, Apple Pay utilises similar technology through the iPhone to pay for goods and services.

More notably, the rollout of fingerprint sensors on EMV cards is expected to take place across the next couple of years. Companies like Gemalto are developing fingerprint biometrics on their cards to replace traditional chip and PIN input at the point of sale. Similarly, Gemalto proposes that fingerprint technology will remove the need for limits on contactless payment.

Concerns around biometrics

As with any new technology, there are some concerns about the true security levels of biometrics. While this third layer protection may seem fool proof now, critics believe this may not remain the case.

The first major concern surrounds privacy. With businesses requiring access to elements of a person’s unique biological profile, some may feel uncomfortable with handing over such information.

Secondly, the protection of such data will be of the utmost importance going forward, and how heavily big business can encrypt users’ data will be paramount to the success of biometrics in the fight against hackers.

Finally, even though third layer biological data is incredibly difficult to harvest and steal right now, there are obvious risks of more sophisticated fraudulent processes being developed to carry out serious data breaches and continue credit card fraud in the future. Just as criminal technology advanced to disrupt the TFA process, it could feasibly advance to attacking biometrics as well.

Regardless, biometrics is set to become an integral part of the credit card and smart payment markets of the very near future. Even with valid concerns around privacy considered, there’s no doubt of the extra security benefits to the payment process in the here and now.

As consumers look to manage their personal finances with more care, biometric technology is likely to be welcomed by an increasingly security-conscious customer base.

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