Mastercard unveils card with fingerprint sensor

Mastercard has developed a payment card with a built-in fingerprint scanner that can replace a personal identification number (PIN) or signature for authorising payments.

The payment card provider says that the new card works with all existing chip-and-PIN readers and is currently undergoing trials in South Africa. Further trials are planned across Europe and Asia Pacific over coming months, with a “full roll out expected later this year.”

Mastercard’s chief of safety and security, Ajay Bhalla, said that the fingerprint technology would help “to deliver additional convenience and security” for customers. “It is not something that can be taken or replicated,” he added.

The technology works in a similar way to mobile phone payments, requiring users to have their finger over the sensor when making a purchase. Although not foolproof, many security experts regard it as a sensible use of biometric technology.

Karsten Nohl, chief scientist at Berlin’s Security Research Labs, told UK broadcaster the BBC that fingerprint sensors can be compromised. “All I need is a glass or something you have touched in the past,” and if information is stolen “you only have nine fingerprint changes before you run out of options,”he noted.

He nonetheless regards fingerprint technology as superior to “what we have at the moment”.

“With the combination of chip and PIN, the PIN is the weaker element. Using a fingerprint gets rid of that. Fingerprints have helped us avoid using terrible passwords, and even the most gullible person is not going to cut off their finger if [a criminal] asks nicely.”

Anthony Duffy, Fujitsu’s director of retail banking, UK and Ireland, said that the new card offered further proof that biometric technologies are coming of age.

“Biometric solutions have been used by foreign banks for many years. Brazilian, Japanese and Turkish banks, to cite just three examples, all use Fujitsu biometric solutions to support day-to-day banking transactions. However, it is only recently that British banks have started to deploy the technology on a significant scale. For example, voice recognition systems are becoming commonly used in call centre operations to identify customers, while finger print recognition systems have also been deployed for some business customers.

“Financial institutions are keen to enhance security further and to improve customer service. Biometric technologies, by being unique to the individual, help achieve both goals. Their use often reduces the use of passwords, or even eliminates them altogether, while often also providing an audit trail. When deployed to help identify customers, their use can speed up the identification and log-on process, by removing the need to ask security questions.

“With the deployment of biometrics on everyday devices – for example, the use of finger prints to unlock mobile phones – we expect user familiarity with, and confidence in, the technology to grow rapidly. This will encourage deployment and take-up of biometric solutions.”

 

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