Posted by Peter Mucklestone and Stuart Louie
As recently reported by CNN, a new standard in ATM security is emerging; however, not in the United States or even North America, but in the mountains and jungles of Colombia. BanCafe, Colombia's fifth-largest bank, has installed hundreds of ATM machines across the county which, as an alternative to requiring the traditional ATM card and personal identification number to grant a user access to his/her accounts, operate using fingerprint biometrics. The move by BanCafe was motivated by the increasing need for security among coffee-growers concerned about theft related to ATM use. Since offering fingerprint biometrics as an alternative method of accessing a user's account via an ATM, approximately 15% (or 230,000) of BanCafe's customers have registered for the service.
Fingerprint biometric technology has improved and expanded since its conception. Initially, the fingerprints of almost 30% of BanCafe's customers who enrolled in the pilot project were unable to be read by the then existing technology. Current developments in biometric imaging technology, however, has reduced the instances of error to approximately 8%.
In addition to fingerprint biometrics, finger scans (in which identity is confirmed by multiple points on the finger), hand scans (in which identity is confirmed by measuring the widths of the palms and the lengths of the fingers), and even scans that read the pattern of a user's blood vessels have been developed.
Despite biometric technology being, disputably, one of the most secure forms of authentication due to its difficulty to imitate or duplicate (but see our previous report on addressing recognized vulnerabilities here), its use as a security measure has been slow to penetrate U.S. markets. John Hall, a spokesman for the American Bankers Association, noted that in order for such technologies to succeed, customers must be convinced that biometric technologies provide more security then the ATM card-and-P.I.N. system, which to date, has been fairly successful. Other factors that could prevent the wide-spread adoption of biometric ATMs include the unwillingness of customers to forgo the additional functionality of ATM cards as debit cards or the unwillingness of banks to forgo the advertising benefits of ATM cards.