Thursday, 23 April 2015

PayPal Pushing Biometric Identification Technologies

One of the world's largest electronic payment processors is leading the charge toward new biometric identification technology that will eventually eliminate the need for usernames and passwords.  PayPal, the former eBay subsidiary, insists they have no practical use for biometric technology at the current time.  They say they are pushing to move things forward because they want to be the ‘thought leaders’ in the industry.

Although the field of biometric identification is wide open, the things PayPal are looking at focus on natural body identification methods that would involve embedded silicon chips, brain implants and ingestible ID products powered by stomach acid.  Other companies are looking for ways to take advantage of biometric identification without the need for synthetic components.  For example, Microsoft is working on retina scanners and facial recognition.

The advantage of natural body identification by way of implanted or ingested devices is that identification can be achieved by combining a number of natural elements including heartbeat and vein structure.  Multiple biometric markers are seen as more reliable than single markers, such as footprints and retina scans.

There is little doubt of the commercial viability of biometric identification for both communications and financial transactions.  The infrastructure already exists to make use of such identification methods; it is only waiting for the methods to catch up with already available networks.  PayPal hopes to be a leader in the development process.

User Names and Passwords Doomed

At the risk of sounding clich├ęd, it is not a matter of if usernames and passwords are doomed, it is simply a matter of when it eventually happens.  No matter how many times people are warned about using exceptionally weak usernames or passwords, they continue to use things such as 123456 and qwerty.  As long as this trend continues - and it will - cyber criminals will have easy access to millions of accounts all across the world.

Unfortunately, even complex usernames and passwords can be broken using sophisticated computer algorithms capable of going through millions of combinations in a short amount of time.  That leaves us with no other choice but to develop biometric identification, thus removing user name and password data from the equation.

Even as PayPal and other companies forge ahead with biometric identification, it is not fool-proof.  In fact, there are many concerns.  Right off the bat, biometric identification would depend on hardware and software being a lot more dependable than it is now.  Second, any biometric identification method would require the data collected during the identification process to be translated into machine language code and that code can always be breached and used for illegal access.  The security segment will have to adapt along with biometric identification.

One final concern is one of what will happen to currency when biometric identification becomes the norm.  There are legitimate fears of a cashless society relying on the good graces of government for monetary stability.   That may not necessarily be a good idea…

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