MasterCard has revealed plans to make use of biometric information to replace passwords required for online payments, harnessing technologies such as Apple’s TouchID fingerprint scanner found on iPhones and iPads.
Working in partnership with Visa, MasterCard said it wants to replace current password-based online security authentication, known as 3D Secure, with a new protocol standard to bypass "password interruptions" in internet transactions.
In an interview with V3, Bob Reany, senior vice president of Authentication Strategy at MasterCard, said the new protocol will take a “multi-layered” approach to authentication.
He explained this would involve making use of biometric technology such as fingerprint, voice and facial recognition to bypass the need for consumers to remember passwords.
“We don’t want people to remember stuff because they’re really, really horrible at it,” said Reany. “Passwords were originally used to get past the guard at the gate – we really are misusing them. You weren’t meant to have 40 of them. It’s just not workable.”
Reany went on to say that MasterCard is championing the new payment authentication, as currently databases full of credit card information are not secure enough as the payment details of individuals are only protected by repeat passwords making them relatively easy to hack.
“There’s a big pot gold for the bad guys – they do these attacks on databases of millions of credentials worth thousands of dollars every time you get a compromised card. It the most attractive thing – you’ve given yourself a hell of a target,” he explained.
MasterCard and Visa look to solve this problem by aiming to have the new protocol adopted as early as 2015, which will represent the largest wholesale upgrade to online payment security.
“By distributing [new protocols] we’ve broken the business model for the bad guys,” said Reany, who detailed how the protocol’s future rollout will make getting access to payment details extremely difficult for cyber criminals.
The end goal of MasterCard’s plan is to enable everyone from consumers to banks and merchants to embrace invisible security authentication, and reduce the number of prompts for passwords without compromising secure payments.
To achieve this, MasterCard has outlined plans to pilot commercial trials for various methods of biometric identification via mobile devices, one of which is a wristband that identifies a cardholder by their cardiac rhythm.
Reany detailed how the maturity of technologies in the smartphone market has enabled companies to adopt such features for security processes.
Rather than requiring companies to invest in technology that enables biometric authentication, they can instead apply a software layer to smartphones with the functionality built in, making the business case of adopting new protocols more appealing.
“The population is ‘terminalising’ themselves with this very strong, well-designed thing [biometrics technology] and we’re able to use it,” he said, concluding: “This is actually the highway for people to have a much better safer experience.”
MasterCard will also look to evolve its SecureCode programme to support the new protocol by replacing 3D Secure.
The company's interest in biometric payment authentication appears to tie in with its partnership with Visa, as both companies are working with Apple to bring Apple Pay contactless payments to Europe.
Apple has not revealed its contactless payment plans for Europe, though Reany told V3 that MasterCard would be assisting the company with Apple Pay plans.
“MasterCard is working with Apple in all markets,” said Reany. “Anywhere that Apple Pay goes we’re with them right now - we’re planning and working with Apple very, very closely.”
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