Dec 06 2023

How Biometrics Identity Verification Systems Secure Banking

Convenience, security and innovation mark the biometrics scene in finance today.

Your face is your fortune. Or at least, your face might give you access to whatever fortune you have in the bank.

Seventy-two percent of customers say they’re comfortable with their banks using biometrics, Biometric Update reports. And with major players such as Bank of America, Citibank and Wells Fargo using these tools — the market is projected to grow to nearly $9 billion by 2026 — the use of biometric authentication in banking is positioned to be the access wave of the not-so-distant future.

Fingers and Faces: The World of Biometrics

The leading forms of biometric authentication are fingerprint and face recognition. While there are numerous fingerprint and face recognition devices available for other uses, such as physical entry in secure facilities, customer biometrics tend to rely on smartphone technology.

Fingerprints are usually collected using optical scanners on a smartphone, which basically takes a photograph that is then scanned using an algorithm to detect unique patterns that match the pattern input when the biometric authentication was established. More advanced smartphones may rely on scanners that register the stored electricity or mechanical stress of a fingerprint.

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With face recognition technology, computer vision is used to create a biometric template of a user’s face, measuring unvarying characteristics such as the distance between the eyes and the length of the nose. When users present themselves for access, that image is given a match score against the template for that user; if it’s a match, the user gains access.

Whether it uses faces or digits, biometric authentication has distinct advantages for financial institutions and their customers.

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Biometrics Protect Security at Each Step

Fingerprints take the lead on precision security. No two fingerprints are alike, so fingerprint authentication has an inherent security and permanence compared with many other forms of identification. Common identity scams become much more difficult to execute with biometrics.

Face recognition is also relatively secure, though the technology still carries risks. Research indicates that there’s a higher false match rate among images of Black people compared with those of white people. And in a twist out of a legal thriller, identical twins and doppelgangers do pose problems for facial data sets.

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Fast, Convenient, Contactless Banking Via the Human Body

Banking customers are not only comfortable with biometrics, they are beginning to prefer the approach: 58 percent of survey respondents said that they would choose biometrics over passwords more than half the time.

Using biometrics removes the need for customers to remember passwords. This is particularly important as security-conscious consumers may have dozens or even hundreds of unique passwords.

It’s also faster: Customers may not have to wade through a slew of two-factor authentication security practices, as biometrics can serve as one factor. Biometrics also mean more accuracy: There’s less risk of legitimate users being locked out of accounts after surpassing the number of entry attempts. Most of all, it’s simple: No need for a password manager or an encrypted list of passwords, just a touch of a finger or a selfie.

DISCOVER: Find out why your organization should consider passwordless authentication.

Biometrics Keep Banks in the Know with Continuous Innovation

Staying at the fore of intelligence protection helps financial institutions keep ahead of fraudulent activity. New security functionalities are constantly being developed, and banks that wait too long to jump into any one territory risk being left behind as consumers migrate to institutions with cutting-edge security and convenience.

For example, biometrics in banking may be widely used for authentication, but biometric-based payment isn’t yet the sector’s baseline. However, institutions such as JP Morgan Chase and Visa are testing biometric payments: Visa rolled out three face recognition payment hubs at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar as part of its mission to bring contactless payment to one of the world’s biggest sporting events.

Biometrics coupled with other authentication measures can form a powerhouse of security. WatchGuard’s tokens can be protected with biometrics, and the system requires a strong biometric imprint. This means that the baseline biometric fingerprint taken to, say, unlock one’s phone might not be sufficient to unlock a token on WatchGuard’s AuthPoint system.

As banks increasingly ask customers to let their fingers do their logging, new security needs regarding biometrics are likely to emerge. But for now, the authenticity of the body remains at the vanguard of authentication.

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