The Power of Waving Your Hand

The pace of technology forces us to develop, invent and grow over and over again. With the increase of contactless, digital and non-physical payments, comes the need for security. Especially when there might not be a need for a PIN or any other security code anymore. People care a lot about their money and only the thought of fraud or theft, brings nightmares to them. Even though the common fears about the contactless payment that you could randomly pay just by passing by or that a thief could pay lots of smaller amounts until the bank account is empty, are non-sense, nevertheless people are afraid of it and need something to chase away their nightmares.

PINs, passwords and security codes are outdated. They can easily be stolen, copied or manipulated, so there is a need for a new security identification and verification system: biometric security.
 What we have seen in movies and TV-shows for quite a while now, might become reality very soon. Iris scanners, finger print scanners, voice recognition, facial recognition and even the identification via heartbeat, but this time it´s not some high security government facility that is protected but our bank accounts, documents and everything else that we secure with a password at the moment. And it has already started. iPhone users can access their phones via fingerprint scan, purchase apps and music from the app store and now even use their finger for identification when paying with Apple´s Wallet. The first credit cards with an integrated fingerprint scan are in trial and might soon be standard on the market.

Scientists expect the world to use biometric security as a security standard in the payment and banking area by 2020. It will be used while withdrawing cash from an ATM, identifying yourself when contacting your bank via telephone and authenticating mobile banking apps. A combination of face and voice recognition will also help fulfil Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) measures when accessing eBanking services.

While fingerprints are the most mainstream and insecure method of authentication, a combination of different biometric data, makes it incredibly difficult to gain unwanted access. Technology is even progressing so far that your own heart rate may be used as reference for identification. Everyone has a unique heart rate that can be measured and matched to the respective person. The only problem is that the heart rate might change over time due to aging or sickness which would lead to inaccessibility to your own accounts and data.

Apart from that it might be seen as critical that sensitive biometric information like iris, voice, hand, heart and facial patterns would be stored in some database. If a person’s biometric information is stolen, that could have extremely serious consequences for that individual. And what if at some point a drop of blood is used as a method of identification like in the movie GATTACA?

As convenient as the use of biometric security might be — since passwords don´t have to be remembered and tokens cannot be forgotten anymore — we have to watch this development with a critical eye and ask ourselves how much we are willing to divulge about ourselves. We have to be aware of the consequences if our biometric information might be stolen and if criminals start developing methods to copy other biometric data apart from fingerprints.

Nevertheless it is interesting to observe how the future is becoming present and technology is advancing. And to be honest, being able to pay with a wave of your hand is just amazingly convenient.