Biometrics technology and blockchain’s decentralized ledger technology are both powerful emerging payments technologies on their own. Together, blockchain and biometrics may reinvent payments security as we know it.
A recent Javelin Strategy & Research report highlights that there were 16.7 million victims of identity fraud last year, a record-setting amount that shows no signs of slowing. Last year’s Equifax breach marked the first time that more Social Security numbers were exposed than sensitive credit card numbers, putting many people on edge. The total stolen amount in 2017 capped out at $16.8 billion, touching 30% of U.S. consumers that were connected to a data breach.
These statistics mark a new sense of urgency in cybersecurity as hackers become more sophisticated and bold. Current payments security standards are struggling to keep up with vulnerabilities as emerging technologies creates new exposure and as bad actors find new security gaps to exploit. However, security technologies are also developing, yielding promising new solutions to combat fraud in online payments. This article explores how blockchain and biometrics may work together to facilitate more secure payments.
Biometrics as a security tool is not a new idea; however, until recently, this technology has not been used widely due to consumer hesitation. In the past several years, we’ve seen more payment technologies implement biometrics as a security measure as well as consumers growing increasingly interested and excited about this prospect. Juniper Research predicts that roughly 770 million biometric authentication apps will be downloaded annually by next year. Apple has long used its fingerprint scanning technology in Touch ID to enable users to purchase digital content on iTunes, but it also uses the technology as part of Apple Pay to facilitate in-store mobile payments.
Biometric authentication technology presents a frictionless new form of identity verification for more secure payments. Other major and recognizable brands have begun to incorporate the technology in various ways. MasterCard rolled out “selfie pay”, which enables users to authenticate payments by taking a selfie, which taps facial recognition technology. Other fintechs are looking at ways to incorporate iris scanning and voice recognition as frictionless authentication tools to secure payments. The ease with which this type of verification takes place along with the low possibility of spoofing or being able to fool the system makes it an appealing option for payments security.
The blockchain is a security powerhouse in its own right. It offers a new brand of absolute data security by empowering all parties involved with ownership over the data and total transparency. By eliminating intermediaries and utilizing smart contracts or purchase instructions coded into each transaction, it significantly cuts down if not eliminates the chances of fraud.
Since transactions on blockchain are immutable, they cannot be modified or stolen. With one authenticated digital identity, users and corporations could complete transactions with an infinite number of merchants or entities without worrying about data or transactions records getting lost, hacked, or stolen.
While biometric technology is on its way to becoming a near-ubiquitous phenomenon, blockchain has faced slower adoption due to lower awareness. Even so, the number of fintechs, financial institutions and banks that are venturing into blockchain possibilities for payments bears hope.
The combination of blockchain and biometrics could really put a dent in the fraud business, and some fintechs are already experimenting with the possibilities. Since blockchain—a decentralized ledger— enables consumers to make purchases without transferring sensitive payment data, consumers can enjoy total control and ownership over their data. Subsequently, hacks and breaches pose a lesser threat because companies could ostensibly have nothing sensitive or of value to hack.
Accessing a platform to complete transactions via blockchain is where biometrics comes into play. Some fintechs have already developed blockchain-based apps that depend on biometrics for consumer authentication. In order to log on to such an app and complete a transaction, the user would first have to use some type of biometric authentication to gain access, like a fingerprint scan. Again, this requires no exchange of sensitive personal or card data with the company itself. Blockchain and biometrics handle all the security heavy-lifting, allowing consumers to make nearly risk-free purchases.
These emerging technologies and platforms that combine blockchain and biometrics technologies eliminate unsafe (and hackable) passwords, mitigate the financial impacts of breaches, and enable frictionless, real-time transactions by empowered consumers.
Both blockchain and biometrics separately show great promise in mitigating e-commerce payment risk. Blockchain decentralized ledger technology restores ownership of sensitive payment data to the consumer, while biometrics enables people to use more secure and less spoofable ways to authenticate transactions. Together, blockchain and biometrics may hold the key to a future where payments are secure beyond reproach, but only time will tell.