Is the smartphone the new bank teller?
In 2016, it was found that over 20 million Britons banked online through their personal devices. And given the smartphone’s rapid rise in popularity, and the high street bank’s rather old-fashion opening hours, it’s hardly surprising that the mobile phone is becoming the go-to when it comes to managing our money.
But what about security? How safe is it to use your smartphone for shifting cash around? And what will be different a few years down the road?
If you bought a smartphone in the past couple of years, the likelihood of it having a fingerprint scanner on it somewhere is pretty high. The scanners often find themselves embedded into the phone’s home button, or strategically positioned on the back to make unlocking with a tap a quick and simple process.
Before the fingerprint scanner, we were all pretty set with four-digit passcodes. There are over 10,000 number combinations of 0-9, and for a long time that was enough for everyone. It’s unlikely that someone would ever be able to guess your PIN... unless they were incredibly motivated, right?
Next, the fingerprint scanner came along - which was big news, given every person’s fingerprints are completely unique to them. It was futuristic, it was easy to use, and it was secure. The fingerprint scanner is now present on all the big names in the smartphone game, including Apple, Samsung, Sony, HTC, Huawei… the list goes on. However, just as soon as it became commonplace, it was succeeded by a ‘better’ technology...
When the iris scanner made its way to the market with the Lumia 950 in 2015, Microsoft said it was over 200-times more secure than unlocking your phone with your fingerprint. The special camera was able to ‘read’ the patterns of your eyes, and it even worked with glasses-wearers. The problem was, people didn’t want to hold their phones a couple of centimeters from their eyeballs to unlock it. It looked weird, and it wasn’t fast. So for a while, we went back to the trusty fingerprint sensor. That was until the Samsung Galaxy S8 arrived.
Samsung changed the smartphone game when it released the S8 - it looks awesome and it works really well. But, most importantly (to this article), was the on-board iris scanner.
Iris banking and its security
TSB will be the first bank in Europe to allow its mobile customers to unlock their account using a mobile iris scanner, The Telegraph reports. As of September, those with a Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8+ will be able to skip around those lengthy login screens, and instead simply look at their phones to securely access their account.
Carlos Abarca, TSB’s chief information officer, said that iris recognition offers "an unparalleled level of cyber security”.
The iris contains 266 unique characteristics compared to the fingerprint’s 60, making it the most secure form of biometric security currently available. The stat, again reported by The Telegraph, gives a subtle nod to the likes of HSBC and Barclays, which both allow their respective customers to transact using fingerprint identification.
Despite the figures, experts are still warning that iris security might not be enough to provide identity, instead suggesting there should be a three-pronged approach to identifying customers who aren’t physically present.
Richard Parris, chief executive of software firm Intercede, commented: “Rather than use biometrics in isolation, instead businesses need to be looking at strong authentication that incorporates three distinct elements – possession (something you have, such as a smartphone), knowledge (something you know, such as a PIN) and inherence (something you are, an iris scan).
"This allows businesses to verify that the person accessing the service is who they say they are, in addition to limiting the amount of times an individual can attempt access if any of these elements are missing or incorrect."
What will be next?
In a few years, biometrics will be old hat, and we’ll probably be looking at a new form of technology that’s even more secure. But what would that be? What’s more secure than the unique makeup of our eyes and fingers? Will we have to pass a test issued by our virtual assistants? Will our phones analyse our brain patterns? All will be revealed…
If you’ve got anything to add, drop us a comment below.