Mobile Payment Security, Why PINs Don’t Work and The Biometric Solution: An Interview With Jean-Noel Georges

This past July Frost & Sullivan released a market insight report detailing the largest obstacle in the way of a mobile payment revolution: inadequate security. Thanks to the growing popularity of smartphones and tablets there has been a significant increase in payments made via mobile device. However, the various authentication processes in place for card-not-present transactions (PINs, account numbers, card verification codes, etc) cannot completely secure a transaction.

Frost & Sullivan’s Global program director ICT, financial services Jean-Noel Georges says that the answer is in biometric technologies. From the mobile point of sale (POS) solutions available from Natural Security to the Mobile Biometry (MOBIO) project in Europe that exists to take advantage of existing native smartphone technology like cameras and microphones in order to integrate face, iris and voice authentication into payment security, the biometric payment protection possibilities are abundant.

I caught up with Mr. Georges on the phone to discuss the role he sees biometrics playing in mCommerce

PBC -Can you give us some background on the project?

Jean-Noel: Mobile payment is facing a revolution and as such security will be key to expect massive commercial roll out and customer adoption. Unluckily, smartphone adopters are not using a PIN to protect their device. And when they do, the PIN is the same for all applications or electronic device, so this not a real security barrier. This ICT beat is highlighting the fact that biometric seems to answer this specific security requirement.

PBC -What is biometrics biggest obstacle in the adoption of biometric security sollutions for mobile payment?

Jean-Noel – If talking about mobile payments I think we have to divide mobile payment based on point of sale, mobile payment, let’s say, as a card, or when we spend with our mobile online.

And when it’s online you need specifically a fingerprint reader or something else to read your biometric – be it facial recognition or something else – and it’s really not in place yet.

PBC – When discussing the current security measures available you’ve pointed to the statistic that in 2011 over 60 percent of smartphone owners didn’t even use PINs. Is consumer reluctance also a challenge?

Jean-Noel – Exactly. This is exactly the problem.

To remember a PIN: it’s not too easy at the end.

First of all, it’s time consuming. It’s boring. And it’s not physical. Most of the time people are using the same pin for mutual applications. So, it could be for your mobile. And it could be used in your mobile to open applications. But it’s also used for personal purposes, like to access your Facebook account or any other social media. So most of the time people who are using the pin are using the same pin. In terms of security breaches it’s really important.

PBC – The big buzz in biometrics right now surrounds the iPhone finger sensor rumors and Microsoft’s strong support for fingerprint technology. Yet you’ve pointed to other solutions that leverage native smartphone technology.

Jean-Noel – That’s the funny thing: because I was referring to the MOBIO project. And this project was mostly focusing on mobile and tablets, and they were looking for it on microphone and camera. Specifically facial recognition and voice recognition. But it seems that the market is not looking in the same direction as that project and, according to me, I have a feeling that fingerprint is driving the market for prevention. At the moment. I was referring also to Natural Security.

PBC: So, sounds like the future of mobile commerce is going to come in the form of fingerprint biometrics. Other than PINs and the biometric solutions mentioned in the market analysis do you see any alternatives? Or is this a definitive thing?

Jean-Noel: No. I think it’s a definitive thing.

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