RBS and Natwest will become the first two banks in the UK to take advantage of Apple's Touch ID technology on their mobile banking apps. From 19 February, after an initial activation using their existing security information - users of the two banks' respective apps will be able to access them through the touch of a finger. Stuart Haire, managing director of RBS and NatWest Direct Bank, said:
"There has been a revolution in banking, as more and more of our customers are using digital technology to bank with us. Adding Touch ID to our mobile banking app makes it even easier and more convenient for customers to manage their finances on the move and directly responds to their requests."
According to RBS and Natwest, a fairly large number of their customers will benefit. 1.8 million of their customers have iPhones - and 880,000 the required models to utilise Touch ID technology. The solution is only available on the 5s, 6 and 6 plus as it stands.
We are big fans of linking identity to security here at Ensygnia, but in the case of Touch ID - it seems pretty clear that the move is not predominately motivated by security - but convenience. There has yet to be wide spread reports of Touch ID security issues but many security experts question its credentials. A spokesman of SRLabs, a German hacking think tank, told the BBC:
"Just the fact that you are carrying the key around with you and leave copies of it exposed everywhere you go makes it a very different risk to something that is inside your brain. The risks are poorly understood."
In fact it was only a day after the release of Touch ID that a group of hackers where able to successfully compromise an iPhone device using a photo of a fingerprint left on a glass. And early this year we saw a similar story of a German politician's fingerprints being reproduced. Touch ID and biometrics are an extremely interesting approach to security but perhaps more needs to be done to ensure security is not sacrificed for the sake of convenience alone. A login solution should do both.
One route to improving the security of Touch ID is of course scanning a less visible part of your body. Check out this story on 9to5Mac,where they round up all the different successful attempts at using various body parts for Touch ID. Thankfully not all are accompanied by a video...
By Matthew Taylor 18th February 2015
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