Why Chip and PIN Is Obsolete … And So Are Fingerprints

Guest post by Simon Crouch, assistant brand manager, Hitachi Europe Ltd.

Simon Crouch
Simon Crouch

We live in a world where data and deception go hand in hand. So many everyday activities – from online shopping and banking to emailing and paying bills – are governed by passwords, profiles and personal details.

And as people’s phones, cars, and homes get smarter and more connected, the number of ways criminals can try and access and abuse your personal information is only going to rise.

Most people rely heavily on passwords to protect their information. But as quickly as organizations and financial institutions create safer and safer systems, hackers are finding smarter ways to commit cybercrime, and there are more and more cases of identity theft.

The payments landscape

For debit and credit card purchases and online banking, suppliers are making a shift from chip and PIN to contactless and app-based payment technologies, but these still have one thing in common – a thief who steals your card or phone might still be able to access your cash or personal information.

Finger vein recognition

Biometrics technology has been the focus of new innovative ways of authenticating people’s identities. Biometrics includes fingerprints, iris scanning, and facial recognition, but it’s finger vein recognition that looks set to shake up the way we secure our data.

Leading scientists at Hitachi, which patented the technology in 2005, has been developing new ways to incorporate VeinID into the everyday payments and personal data landscape.

How does it work?

The Hitachi sensor works by transmitting near-infrared light through the finger. This is partially absorbed by haemoglobin in your veins, which enables the device to capture your unique finger vein pattern profile. This is then matched with your account’s pre-registered profile to confirm your identity.

But what makes VeinID more safe and secure than other types of passwords and security options?

 Your veins are unique

 No two people, even identical twins, have the same finger vein pattern. And while most people have unique fingerprints, you leave fingerprints on objects you touch, making it possible for criminals to lift and replicate for their own use. As your veins are inside your finger, there’s no way of anyone else knowing what the pattern looks like and trying to copy it.

Relying heavily on fingerprints has caused public concern in the past. When Apple launched TouchID a few years ago, people were worried about criminals cutting off people’s fingers to gain access to their phone and personal data.

While these proved to be outlandish claims, finger vein recognition users can rest easy knowing that the VeinID sensors only work with living tissue. If your finger has been cut (or severed from your hand!) the veins collapse, meaning your unique pattern is lost. Obviously, this doesn’t prevent a determined criminal from cutting off your finger, but at least, if they do, they won’t be able to access your personal information.

 The other main concern users might have is that criminals could blackmail or pressure victims to access their accounts. Fortunately, Hitachi has thought of this too. Users register a ‘stress finger’ as well as their regular ID finger. If they find themselves under duress, they can scan the stress finger instead and their bank will automatically take action, such as making a bank machine appear to be out of service.

As more and more businesses invest in cybersecurity and customer protection, technologies like this will become much more prevalent. Chip and PIN rapidly replaced handwritten signatures, and contactless card technology is speeding up payments. But we’re just beginning to scratch the surface with the security solutions that lie just underneath the skin.

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