Say goodbye to your password – biometrics in 2016

By Clayton Howes, CEO, MoneyMe

You already use your finger to unlock your phone. Now, imagine doing the same thing with your eyes.

Sounds crazy, right? Maybe something Tom Cruise would do in a Mission Impossible movie.

Wrong.

The biometrics revolution is beginning, and it’s only going to get more exciting from here. In fact, by 2020 research group IDC expects 50% of all mobile devices to have biometric security.

We have a security problem. Society has been using the same type of security measures for decades, and they’re not working. How many times have you received a message from a retailer or other business asking you to change your username or password due to a breach? (Ashley Madison customers know this pain all too well.)

It’s easy to crack this stuff. Even when your password is long, random and complicated. An investigation by Wired in 2013 found security experts were able to hack into a list of about 16,000 passwords.

Now, when you consider that most people just use random words for passwords, including easily-guessable content like “password” or “1234”, password security looks a lot less secure.

And it’s only going to become more crucial to protect this content. We’re giving away more of our data every day – to apps, to websites, to digital services. Our credit card numbers and passwords are held by dozens, even hundreds, of different services.

We’re using ancient technology to protect modern data. This is 2016. It’s a little sad our usernames and passwords are being leaked on a regular basis.

Enter biometrics.

This isn’t science-fiction. People use their thumbs to unlock their smartphones every day. Using retina scanning and facial recognition technology used to be in the realm of top-secret government departments. Now, Facebook can scan photographs automatically to recognise you and your friends.

As consumers, we should all be hoping for the day that advanced biometrics comes as standard in our devices. Think about the conveniences. You’ll never have to remember a password again, or for that matter, spend time thinking up a complex string of words that you’re never going to remember anyway. (And remember – they’re still easy to crack).

With biometrics, there’s relatively zero chance someone can steal your identity. Hackers don’t stand a chance if they need to literally use your eyes to get some money and using these methods means less admin and less paperwork for everyone.

For start-ups, access to biometric security methods is also a huge win. Trusting a business with data is one of the hurdles new customers face when signing up for a product. Ensuring biometric security is baked in from the start means businesses will be able to find new customers a lot sooner.

Privacy is something that MoneyMe takes very seriously, as we’re planning to become one of Australia’s first quick finance companies to introduce biometric identification. This will make things safer and easier for customers when accessing their accounts.

So, say goodbye to your password. You won’t need it anymore.

Here are just a few examples of biometrics techniques already being used across the world:

Fingerprint scanning

Human fingerprints are nearly unique and difficult to alter. And they’re not only used on phones. In Japan, there are over 80,000 biometric ATMs.

Vein reading

Poland was the first country to introduce ATMs that used an infra-red reader to allow customers to withdraw money. In the US, nuclear power and biohazard plants have installed vein readers.

Iris recognition

Hundreds of millions of people around the world have had their irises scanned for their passports.

Google uses iris scanners to control access to its datacentres, while Microsoft also introduced two Lumia phones that use iris scans for security.

Facial recognition

Australia already uses facial recognition in border control - that’s why the rules for your passport photo are so strict.

Speech identification

An advantage of speech identification is that you can authenticate your voice from a remote location (such as over the phone).

These are just some of the main biometric technologies already being deployed throughout Australia and overseas. But several others are emerging, including DNA analysis, keystroke recognition, gait analysis and EEG/EGC analysis.

Clayton Howes is the CEO of digital consumer finance firm MoneyMe (www.moneyme.com.au). He's an expert in personal finance as well as small business and start-ups.

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