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MasterCard has announced that they will be introducing a card that includes a fingerprint scanner. The announcement came hot on the heels of two successful trials of the technology in South Africa. The new cards will work in a similar way to current mobile payment systems, where you insert a card into a card reader and then place your finger on the fingerprint scanner built into the card.
Although the fingerprints are not fool-proof, Ajay Bhalla, MasterCard’s chief of safety and security, stated the new technology will help “to deliver additional convenience and security. It is not something that can be taken or replicated.”
The new technology is a marked improvement on what we currently have, according to Karsten Nohl, chief scientist at Berlin's Security Research Labs, who told the BBC in an interview that “With the combination of Chip and PIN, the PIN is the weaker element. Using a fingerprint gets rid of that.” Dr. Nohl pointed out one drawback of the new technology, in that you only have 9 alternatives if your fingerprint is compromised, however, he is tentatively optimistic about the development, stating that it was “better than what we have at the moment.”
The new cards will include both the digital template of an individual’s fingerprint, as well as the scanner to be able to read it. This means that the new cards can be used in any current chip and PIN points of sale. This is a marked improvement on previous systems which required the store to have a system that included a separate fingerprint scanner. This greatly reduced the usefulness of the system since most retailers did not have them.
The new technology will only be useful for instore purchases, where you can physically use your fingerprint. Other “Card Not Present” transactions and online payments will still need other security and authentication procedures.
This is another great step in increasing the security of our credit cards, it is only a few years from the time when you had to give an imprint of your card and sign a paper slip, to now where you can pay with your phone using a virtual card. We can only imagine what the future holds, will the time come when we don’t need to carry our cards at all?
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