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Take On Payments, a blog sponsored by the Retail Payments Risk Forum of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, is intended to foster dialogue on emerging risks in retail payment systems and enhance collaborative efforts to improve risk detection and mitigation. We encourage your active participation in Take on Payments and look forward to collaborating with you.

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September 27, 2010


Could the fight against ATM fraud use the help of biometrics?

Biometrics is defined as "the measurement and analysis of unique physical or behavioral characteristics especially as a means of verifying personal identity." There are several different identifiers that may be used in biometrics, including fingerprint and hand geometry, voice and vein recognition, as well as retina, iris, and facial scans. The concept of biometric technology as a customer authentication tool to protect the identity and accounts of individuals from fraud or theft is promising. However, relinquishing something as personal as a unique trait may leave some skeptical and others simply unnerved.

But can privacy concerns or consumer apprehension over the use of biometrics overcome the need to address the growing instances of ATM fraud?

Physical attacks on ATMs increase
According to Javelin Strategy & Research, in 2009, 10 percent of fraud victims in the United States experienced fraudulent ATM cash withdrawals. These schemes typically involve the use of a skimming device that may sit above the actual card reader and capture PIN entries. Other methods are more brazen and involve the physical act of pulling an ATM from the wall or floor and disassembling it elsewhere. Additional types of ATM attacks may involve data breaches, social engineering, and software vulnerabilities.

Successful adoption of biometric technology
Although the thought of biometric technology may conjure up images of George Orwell's 1984, for years now, several major Japanese banks have been using some form of biometric technology to combat ATM fraud. One example is the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, which uses palm vein-pattern biometrics for account and identity authentication. After inserting the card and entering a PIN, the user holds his or her hand over a sensor on the ATM for verification purposes. Because palm vein patterns are unique to each individual, others are not able to withdraw money using stolen cards. The palm vein information is stored in the card itself, which also keeps the biometric information hidden from bank employees.

In 2006, a new Japanese law made banks liable for fraudulent ATM withdrawals. Prior to the law's passage, banks did not impose withdrawal limits and did not protect against losses due to theft. As a result of the new law, today more than 90 percent of Japan's banks use some form of vein-pattern recognition.

Biometrics obstacles
A lack of standardization and the costs of implementation ring in at the top of the list when we consider why the financial services industry is apprehensive about integrating this technology. Also topping the list are privacy concerns and general consumer apprehension. But surprisingly, consumers have offered positive feedback when asked about the use of biometrics to combat fraud. In fact, when asked what they would choose, more consumers preferred using biometrics as an additional authentication tool over a one-time password device.


Additional Authentication Methods at ATMS by Age
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Will banks be willing to invest the time and money into technology that may or may not become an industry standard? Or are some banks waiting for other banks to serve as pioneers in the United States before they invest in biometric ATM machines?

Creating a chain of trust
U.S. consumers have historically shown reluctance to embrace new technologies until their reliability and trustworthiness have been vetted in the marketplace for a number of years. Part of building this trust will require building a track record of robustness with respect to both security and reliability. While concerns about biometrics may abound, these concerns can be addressed by educating the user and industry.

The concept of biometrics shows great potential for combating ATM fraud, but is it the panacea? Or is the key simply using technology more advanced than that employed by the bad guys, staying one step ahead of them rather than one step behind?

By Ana Cavazos-Wright, senior payments risk analyst in the Retail Payments Risk Forum at the Atlanta Fed

September 27, 2010 in ATM fraud , biometrics , fraud | Permalink

Comments

Oddly enough this article came out recently:

AUTOMATED BIOMETRIC RECOGNITION TECHNOLOGIES 'INHERENTLY FALLIBLE,' BETTER SCIENCE BASE NEEDED

http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=12720

This isn't to say that combining a biometric with a card and PIN could make it less 'inherently fallible'...

The biometric needs to be reliable enough to replace one of the authentication factors with a more effective method. Otherwise you are creating more work/effort/barrier for the consumer to transact with the payment method.

Posted by: Mike Urban | September 29, 2010 at 06:01 PM

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