Westpac considering biometric authentication

Westpac considering biometric authentication

Australian banking group Westpac is exploring the application of fingerprint identification technology for Web banking, with a small-scale pilot possible within the next two years.

According to press reports, the bank is looking at the potential for using biometric controls to safeguard customer accounts. One possibility would be to issue customers with fingerprint scanning devices to access their accounts online.

Westpac's head of media, David Lording, emphasised that the bank was only at the "very early stages" of looking at the technology.

He says the bank has been working with ANZ and the Commonwealth Bank to try to identify standards for an industry-wide application of biometric technology, as one of a number of options for combating Web fraud.

But National Australia Bank is more sceptical about the value of biometric authentication. NAB senior operational risk manager Kayelene O'Neill, reportedly told a banking technology conference in Sydney that if banks moved authentication to a biometric standard, there was a risk that customers would be targeted by criminals as a means to gain access to funds.

Australian banks are set to introduce an industry standard for two-factor authentication for verifying online banking customers later this year. Each bank is free to choose its own method of secondary identification, which will be used in addition to passwords. National Australia Bank said earlier this year that it was going to introduce SMS-based two-factor authentication to its online customers.

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