End of the road for the humble password?
Last month saw the unveiling of Apple's hotly anticipated new smartphone, the iPhone 5S. With a built-in fingerprint scanner integrated into the handset, consumers looking for a convenient and secure alternative to the four-digit password were not left disappointed. But how will it affect digital banking, asks David Webber
Last month saw the unveiling of Apple’s hotly anticipated new smartphone, the iPhone 5S. With a built-in fingerprint scanner integrated into the handset, consumers looking for a convenient and secure alternative to the four-digit password were not left disappointed. But how will it affect digital banking, asks David Webber
The fingerprint recognition scanner, Touch ID, increases mobile device security by adding another layer of authentication and removing the need for users to enter a pin code which activates their iPhones. Given Apple’s own research found that less than half of smartphone owners protect handsets with access codes, this is certainly a step in the right direction for consumer protection. And with more than 9m devices sold in the first weekend, it won’t be long before this kind of biometric authentication becomes the norm for the majority of consumers in the UK.
Consumers can even use the scanner to authenticate purchases on the iTunes store. While this level of functionality is not yet available for external applications, our research found two fifths of UK consumers would be more likely to access their bank accounts via a smartphone if it had a built-in fingerprint scanner. The convenience, coupled with the high level of security on offer could therefore trigger a huge upswing in the number of Brits accessing their bank accounts via a mobile phone.
However, financial services technology providers will need to work hard to ensure banks are happy to swap traditional passwords and pin readers in favour of biometric authentication such as Touch ID. A group from Germany called The Chaos Computer Club has publicly demonstrated how to hack the fingerprint scanner by using a high resolution picture of a fingerprint on a glass surface to bypass the security lock screen. Although Apple’s Dan Riccio says that every time you use the scanner it becomes more thorough, this highlights the risk of using a technology that is still in its relative infancy. Clearly there may be a few issues that need ironing out before biometric scanning kills the password entirely.
However, concerns have not stemmed the flow of iPhone 5S sales and while Apple works on its next software update to close off possible security breaches, millions of consumers around the world are getting used to biometric authentication. Just as iTunes prompted the downfall of the CD, the new iPhone will spell the end of the password. It is only a matter of time until third party developers are allowed to capitalise on this new technology, so I look forward to seeing which bank will be first off the line to ditch the pin and trigger a biometric banking revolution.