Halifax trials heartbeat authentication for online banking

By Nicole Miskelly | 16 March 2015

Halifax is testing new technology which allows customers to access their mobile banking app by checking their unique heartbeat rhythm for security, rather than entering passwords or pin codes.

Halifax is working with Canadian firm Bionym to test the firm’s electronic wristbands which have an embedded sensor that recognises the wearer’s electrocardiogram (ECG) and communicates their identity to other devices via Bluetooth.

In an effort to make online banking safer, the technology means that customers’ will not need to remember their passwords when logging into their accounts and Halifax is the first UK bank to test a wristband device that uses customers’ heartbeats to verify their identity.

Bionym raised $14m last year during a pre-launch for 10,000 of its wearable bracelets and has made deals with Canadian banks including the Royal Bank of Canada to test the system in combination with contactless card use at checkouts.

According to the Guardian, Halifax says the technology is superior to fingerprint or iris scans as the heartbeat is a “vital signal of the body and as such, naturally provides strong protection against intrusions and falsification.”

Bionym claims that, “In a world of passwords and pin numbers, the Nymi Band will allow you to wirelessly prove that you are you to the world around you.”

Marc Lien, director of innovation and digital development at Halifax says: “We are in the early stages of exploring potential uses for the Nymi Band and wearable technology more widely which will help us further understand how we can serve our customers in the way that best appeals to their needs.”

Experts say that the technology could have various applications which may enable workers to access offices or to even unlock and start cars. The wristband may even appeal to governments for security at border posts and public transport etc.

Neil Costigan, CEO of BehavioSec, a behavioural biometrics firm which explores the need for the industry to change the way they see security in the digital world says: “Halifax’s headline heartbeat news is an extremely interesting development in the mobile authentication arena. Of course, these headlines have prompted another flurry of predictions that if this technology is successful ‘passwords, PIN codes and memorable words could soon be a thing of the past, ‘which slightly misses the point – we need to change the way we think about security and trust in a digital world, and accept that the future will bring an increasingly layered approach to security, with a focus on continuous authentication.”



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