UK bank fights fraud with new finger vein scanner

A new way of accessing bank accounts is about to be trialled, which identifies individuals via the unique pattern of veins in their fingers.

Replacing passwords and long series of numbers, users will be able to log in by placing one of their fingers into a scanner.

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Initially, Barclays will only offer the technology, which is distinct from fingerprint recognition, to its business customers. It is believed, however, that the service will be offered to all customers at some point in the future.

Finger vein authentication works by using a portable scanner connected to a computer's USB port and uses near-infra-red light to identify the patter of veins inside a finger.

Only a living finger is accepted, reducing the likelihood of criminals creating a copy or even removing a finger to gain access to accounts.

Businesses can also register several fingers from multiple members of staff, so more than one person at the firm can approve payment.

The technology is relatively expensive at the moment, so business customers will be charged for the service – something that is likely to limit its mass-market appeal.

Ashok Vashwani, Barclays' head of personal and corporate banking, added that most users currently prefer to use their smartphone to manage their accounts.

"Obviously you can't use such a clunky tool along with mobile banking," he said. "I don't think this exact machine is going to be used for retail, but some version of this will definitely come for retail."

Despite the service having limited adoption levels initially, there is some concern that users' biometric information, including vein patterns, could be used by fraudsters or government agencies.

Barclays has claimed that the information will be kept safe in an encrypted form and stored on a computer chip inside the scanner.

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If these security fears can be allayed and the cost of the technology reduced, "finger banking" could soon become the default method for accessing UK bank accounts.