Mastercard hedges its bets on fingerprint scanner in new card
Mastercard hedges its bets on fingerprint scanner in new card

Successfully tested in South Africa, the card works similar to how people use their fingerprint scanners on their smartphones: they must have their finger on the scanner for the card transaction to go through.

Ajay Bhalla, president, enterprise risk and security, Mastercard said: “Whether unlocking a smartphone or shopping online, the fingerprint is helping to deliver additional convenience and security. It's not something that can be taken or replicated and will help our cardholders get on with their lives knowing their payments are protected.”

The card is believed to be the first to include a digital template of the user's fingerprint and require the reading of the fingerprint at the point-of-sale.

Previous cards needed a separate finger scanner, which limited their usability. Shops without readers previously couldn't accept these. As the card as both the biometric data and the scanner on the same card, they can now be accepted everywhere a normal chip and PIN payment card can be used.

The fingerprint scanning part of the card currently only works in shops, online and card not present transactions will still require further security measures.

Security experts have said that although this is not foolproof, it is a logical next step. Tim Erlin, VP at Tripwire told SC Media UK: “The payment card industry is always looking for technology that removes friction from the buying process.”

Erlin opined: “Security is never completely foolproof, but the objective isn't perfection; it's profit.”

Just like passwords, biometric information is data which can also be stolen, and/or faked. So certainly not a panacea. However Mark James, IT security specialist at ESET told SC: “We should embrace the fact that it's a lot safer than a four-digit code. Biometrics are a good way to secure our everyday items that need that extra layer to keep our data safe. There are measures that can be used to protect the storage of the biometric data and of course proof of concept will dictate that someone somewhere has the means to copy your fingerprint, through ‘finding' a mug that you have used and duplicating your fingerprint and use it with your card.”

Anthony Duffy, director of retail banking, UK and Ireland at Fujitsu told SC Media UK that, “It is not unusual for some to be suspicious of new technologies.”

Duffy added: “We believe that biometric technologies are on a journey. We are confident that demand for, and confidence in, such solutions will build over time. Key to this will be user familiarity. This will be helped by deployments in everyday devices such as mobile phones.

Interestingly, Duffy pointed out that according to Visa's Biometric Payment Study (September 2016) found that consumers are almost twice as likely to trust banks to store biometric data and keep it safe than they are to trust government bodies. This trust is growing, up 20 percent over two years, and may well increase further over coming years.

Duffy concluded: “The financial services industry values its reputation for maintaining customer confidentiality and security. It seeks to deploy solutions which enhance and reinforce security, while making the customer interaction easy to undertake. We are confident that biometric solutions enable these goals to be achieved. We expect to see further deployments of biometric solutions in the future.”