Friday, March 11, 2016

Banks to Incorporate Biometric Scanning to Help Prevent Hacking on Mobile Platforms

Due to hackers and other cyber criminals, online security has become a major issue around the world. In an attempt to protect their users' information, various websites have enacted different countermeasures to increase security and prevent hacking, but criminals seem to be evolving with technology. Furthermore, many of the extra safety measures, while they do a good job of protecting users, are often viewed as too confusing or time-consuming. James Koren, in his L.A. Times article, describes Wells Fargo's newest security measures: eye scanning and facial/voice recognition.

Banks and credit card companies tend to be the main targets of hackers and scammers looking to steal money and/or identification information. With a relatively small amount of information about you, a cyber criminal can apply for credit cards, open up bank accounts, and rack up thousands of dollars in debt under your name before you are any the wiser. Banks like Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo are constantly looking for better ways to protect their customers without causing more of a hassle. What they have concluded is that the best method, at least for the time being, is the use of biometric markers, which, with current technology, are nearly impossible to forge.

The average consumer wants to be well protected, yet doesn't want to have to put in a lot of effort in order to obtain that protection. For example, Google, among other websites, has a feature called 2-Step Verification. When you make an account with Google, you have the option to save a phone number to your account. Then, every time you try to log in to your account on a computer that you have not saved, Google requires that you input your username, password, and a six digit code that is sent in a text message to the provided phone number. While this system essentially prevents hackers from getting into your account via brute force attacks, it can also be pretty annoying for users who have to log on to multiple computers/devices in any given day.

Besides lengthy, multiple-step encryption, there is also the simple issue of having to remember several different passwords for different websites, each with different formatting requirements. Each website doesn't want you to use the same password on another site, in case one of the websites gets hacked, but how is the average user supposed to remember upward of 5 passwords, and recall which one goes to which website? Biometrics seems to be the best of both worlds for both time-conscious and safety-conscious customers. Currently, fingerprint-scanning is huge in the marketplace, as new phones by Apple and Samsung are coming with built-in fingerprint scanning capabilities. Some banks are already offering fingerprint-based mobile access to non-business customers. However, for commercial customers, who have much larger accounts, and therefore much more to lose to cyber criminals, the banks want to use additional biometric markers to help ensure the security.

Wells Fargo's new service will use a phone's front-facing camera to look at the pattern of blood vessels on a user's retina. This pattern of blood vessels is just as unique as an individual's fingerprint and, therefore, provides just as much security.  Additionally, users could log in to their account using facial/voice recognition. A user holds their phone so that the front-facing camera can see them, and reads a series of numbers that appear on the screen. A combination of recorded voice data and facial structure data will determine if the user is who they claim to be. In all, these new features should provide a much easier and safer experience for all users, especially business customers who need better safety features. As of now, technology has developed to the point where biometric scanning is doable, but not yet hackable. In the future, this may change, but for the moment, biometrics is the safest course.

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