The news that Bank of the West has introduced a new feature to help customers check account balance without login left me a bit amused and a bit scared. The first thought that comes to my mind is,
Are banks encouraging risky behaviour among their customers in the name of innovation?
We have seen a spate of security incidents involving bank accounts in the recent
past. Banks have found themselves on the wrong side in many legal battles and are trying to implement more robust authentication mechanisms. They are doing what they can (forced in some cases by the regulators) to reduce risk of exposure of critical data. Importance
of educating customers on the importance of security – either password security or security of gadgets used for multi-factor
authentication is being stressed by security professionals. Courts are trying to figure out who is at fault when a security breach happens.
In this background, how prudent it is for a bank to offer to their customers a feature that would need them to check “remember me” box in the name of a big innovation? To be fair, the bank says on its website (in small print, of course): “IMPORTANT NOTE:
When the Quick Balance feature is active (on), anyone who has access to your device can view the balances displayed in the Quick Balance feature”. So, they have done their bit, disclosing the risk of enabling this feature to their customers.
What next? Someone will say transfer funds by a swipe of your finger? And warn their customer (in small print, again) that anyone who has access to their devise can potentially empty their accounts?
We need innovation in banking, yes. The question is, do we really need such risky features? What if the box gets checked thanks to fat fingers? Will the disclosures be sufficient to protect the bank if the customer goes to court?
Such options may make the customers happy in the short run and get more finger swipes in their mobile banking application. That would make the banks happy too. However, considering the risks involved in such options, do we really need such innovation?