Safety in Patterns

The recent biometrics buzz is around consumer-facing applications.

February 21, 2014

The increased availability of biometrics, including Apple’s inclusion of a thumbprint scanner on its latest iPhone, is fueling consumers’ interest in the technology, says Frank Natoli, chief innovation officer for Diebold, a CUNA Strategic Services alliance provider.

He says Apple’s move “reignited conversations about biometrics by making the technology available to the masses. The myriad devices showcased at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas pushed that conversation even further.”

The popularity of biometrics is growing, Natoli says, because the technology delivers on two critical consumer expectations: convenience and security.

But Natoli says successful biometrics applications must go one step further. “The must achieve three things in priority order: augment security, enhance convenience and efficiency, and minimize liability.”

He recently discussed innovations in biometrics, including possible applications for credit unions, with Credit Union Magazine.

CU Mag: What biometrics technologies are most applicable to CUs?

Natoli: At the financial institution, biometric technology is often used as an authentication tool, as opposed to an identification tool, for both staff and consumers. For instance, retina, thumb, or palm scanners are used to control access to and increase the security of vaults, safes, and restricted areas.

But the recent biometrics buzz is around consumer-facing applications. For credit unions, that means biometrics at the ATM, safety deposit boxes, and mobile banking applications.

These applications are already gaining traction in other parts of the world. In Brazil, nearly every new ATM shipped to a financial institution from Diebold’s plant in São Paulo contains biometric technology.

In the U.S., current consumer-facing biometric technology at financial institutions is limited mostly to enabling access to safety deposit boxes, such as Diebold’s Electronic Vault Attendant (EVA) Elite.

As the prevalence of personal devices with biometric scanners increases and mobile-to-ATM interactions continue to grow, including this layer of authentication for self-service banking channels is a clear opportunity for financial institutions to increase security and convenience for consumers.

CU Mag: What are the benefits of biometrics technology over other security technologies?

Natoli: In recent research commissioned by Diebold, consumers said they are concerned about security and depend on their financial institutions to keep their financial assets and personal information secure.

Apart from convenience, consumers are attracted to biometrics because it is perceived as more secure. The fact is, adding biometrics as an element of multi-factor authentication does increase security.

The key here is multi-factor authentication. Layering biometrics onto one or two other factors greatly minimizes the potential for theft and fraud.

Multi-factor authentication can be achieved through a combination of these four factors:

NEXT: Biometrics in action

CU Mag: How has Diebold used biometrics?

Natoli: Diebold is the global leader in biometrics, outside of Japan and Korea where the company does not play, and we have more biometric self-service installments than our top two global competitors combined.

Based on our experience—especially in Brazil where Diebold terminals represent more than half of the country’s 55,000 biometric ATMs—we continue to be the leading implementer of the technology.

Diebold’s application of biometrics at the safety deposit box, EVA Elite, is deployed in U.S. financial institutions to control both staff and consumer access to important assets.

A third-generation technology, EVA Elite has evolved over time to include more advanced technology to bolster security while also keeping consumer convenience and peace of mind at the forefront of development.

Moving forward, Diebold believes biometrics have the potential to improve security and enhance efficiencies of self-service technology. We also see potential expanded use within the branch—e.g., identification as you walk in or verification at any of multiple interaction sites within the branch to make the experience effortless.

Voice and retina recognition will also be part of the future. These technologies are highly accurate and highly secure. They don’t require physical touch and they’re becoming fast and seamless in their applications.

Diebold will continue to leverage its security capabilities to protect the consumer at all layers of the biometric system—the devices, communication encryption, and network level.

The primary social concern today is the issue of where the personal biometric data is held, and the vulnerability or misuse of that data.

One possible way to address that concern is in a multi-layered approach where the biometric data is authenticated to a personal device rather than an institutional data base. In this way, the consumer is carrying two keys: their physical attributes and the digitized version of those attributes.

Both would need to be present and authenticated through an encryption system for a transaction to be carried out. The encryption system would translate and match the keys, but not retain the biometric data.

CU Mag: What do CU execs need to know about biometrics and security today?

Natoli: It’s important for anyone in the financial space to understand consumer concerns about security and be knowledgeable about technologies that are capable of alleviating those concerns. An innovative credit union in Iowa implemented biometrics last year to address just these concerns.

Without addressing some of the barriers to adoption, including social hesitancy and a focus on end-to-end security, wading unguided into biometric technology may not best serve a credit union’s strategic goals.

Still, as the popularity of biometrics increases, credit union executives should find a partner that can help them evaluate the potential for biometrics in their institution and develop a plan to address how the technology could help advance their delivery of secure financial services.

Thinking ahead, financial security continues to be a quickly evolving space as security professionals work to stay ahead of criminals who are using more sophisticated technology every day.

Credit union executives should stay close with their security and technology partners to achieve true security beyond compliance. No one can specialize in everything, and as banking channels converge, access points for criminals to compromise consumer information and funds only increase.