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How to bank with your fingerprint
Biometrics can be more secure than PINS and passwords alone.
If you've been happily tapping out the same PIN code to access your phone and bank account for years, you may see no reason to change. For all the alarmist news stories out there, PIN hacking is still uncommon. But biometrics—which uses a person's physical and behavioral characteristics to verify identity—offers some advantages.
While properly-used PIN codes are safe, people often jeopardize the safety of their PINs to make their codes easier to memorize or type in. While there are 10,000 possible 4-digit PINs, the 20 most common combinations make up 27 percent of all passcodes. Biometrics are practically invulnerable to this type of human error, says Brett Beranek, director of product strategy at biometric software company Nuance.
One solution is to step up your PIN game to something a little more advanced than the classic "1234" or "2580." Or, if you're ready to go to the next generation of security, biometrics are an easy way to protect your accounts and make your banking even more convenient.
Biometrics are booming
Tapping a phone to pay for a cup of coffee once seemed super high-tech, but these days it's the norm. And often that phone is unlocked with a fingerprint. In fact, mobile payments authenticated by biometrics more than tripled to nearly $2 billion from 2016 to 2017.
The face of the next generation
Facial scanning, which maps the position and shape of a person's facial features, provides top-notch security. Apple, which introduced facial scanning technology in the iPhone X, says there's a one-in-a-million chance that someone has a similar face compared to 1 in 50,000 with fingerprints. Some systems are even robust enough to tell identical twins apart: at its launch, Windows Hello—Microsoft's face detection software—successfully differentiated six pairs of identical twins.
100 characteristics to track
You might think there's nothing special about your voice. But biometrics firms have developed systems to measure more than 100 characteristics of a voice, including the way a user pronounces words, the rhythm of their sentences, and the shape and size of their mouth, larynx and vocal tract. Some of the largest institutions—especially the government and financial companies—are looking towards voice as the next wave of super-safe security measures.
Even if a user is sick, a voice recognition algorithm should still be able to detect many of their vocal characteristics.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of biometrics is the convenience: as passwords become more and more complex, they also become harder to remember. Given the need to constantly change and update passwords and PINs, it's easy to become overwhelmed by endless combinations of numbers, letters and special characters.
By comparison, biometrics puts top-level security at your fingertips—literally. It's hard to imagine anything easier or more convenient!
For more information and resources to keep your accounts secure, visit the Chase Security Center.
Mai Nguyen is a Chase News contributor. Her work has appeared in Vox, Wired, and the Toronto Star, among other media outlets.