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Biometric security: giving cyber criminals the finger

Last week, Barclays committed to a progressive future in banking security with the launch of the Barclays Biometric Reader. The scanner, developed by Hitachi, can be plugged into a computer’s USB port, allowing users to access their online bank accounts and make quick payments by simply scanning the vein patterns in their fingers. Whilst similar technology is already being used in Japan, Turkey and Russia, Barclays is pioneering the technology in the UK and it has the potential to revolutionise British banking security as we know it.

Security has become a more serious issue than ever before, with tech-savvy criminals developing increasingly sophisticated fraud and hacking tactics. The threat of online hackers has been highlighted by recent personal data leaks from eBay, the PlayStation Network and bugs such as Heartbleed, which undermined multiple websites’ security. Risks are particularly acute in the financial sector, with approximately £3.3bn being lost in the UK through financial crimes each year and a quarter of the UK’s adult population having been victim to identity fraud. 

The introduction of biometric security systems is an important factor in the fight against cyber-crime. Barclays’ new technology uses near infra-red light to check unique vein patterns inside the finger. This technology is more secure than other biometric systems like fingerprint scanning, as vein patterns are extremely difficult to counterfeit because they are located under the skin. Crucially, the device can only authenticate the finger of a living person as it requires blood to be pumping through the veins.

If biometric systems prove to be as effective at preventing fraud as Barclays promises, finger vein scanners are likely to be a big step in the evolution of digital banking security. Our recent research reveals that 79% of Brits are eager to ditch their passwords in favour of biometric security measures like finger vein technology. Due to the hefty price tag, Barclays will initially only be rolling out the device to corporate clients. However, they are exploring opportunities for similar technology to be used by retail customers on mobile devices. This idea has considerable support behind it, with 29% of consumers saying they would like their bank to integrate finger vein technology into digital banking services.

The financial services industry therefore has a huge opportunity to simultaneously improve security and their customers’ banking satisfaction. Will other banks follow Barclays’ lead by creating more robust security systems to combat fraudsters?



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