Smartphone fingerprint technology and its implications for data security

Biometrics is an area that will always capture a tech fan’s imagination. Walking through doors via a retina scan or paying for you groceries by pressing your finger against a panel all seemed like the stuff of science fiction, until now.

Brands like Apple and Samsung are waging war over who can get the best out of fingerprint technology. The technology is loaded with a minefield of implications and potential pitfalls, most pertinently of all the security of your biometric data.

Apple’s fingerprint scanner stores your data in the phone’s chip and never in the cloud so you’re safely but restrictively confined to Apple’s user platforms. The fingerprint scanner due on the Samsung S5 on the other hand will enjoy electronic transfer links with PayPal, by using PKE encryption.

There’s obvious paranoia about allowing third party developers access to your biometric data – after all, you can’t change your finger prints and if they are stolen, they’ll always be on record and ready to be abused when the world of biometric technologies begins to pervade all aspects of modern life.

The Samsung S5 will utilise Fast Identity Online (FIDO). In practice this means that you would authenticate to your phone and then attach to a network using super-strong encryption coding. This means no cloud storage, which rings true to Apple’s rival philosophy, but also allows for potential authentication to third parties.

The use of biometric data all seems to make perfect sense. We have a huge number of passwords these days, to the point where they’re becoming slightly unmanageable. Biometrics could solve all that, by aligning a biometric key with the tangible ownership of your current device – laptop, phone, or tablet.

The Samsung S5 seems to have found new angles from which to compete with the iPhone. Announced at the recent Mobile World Congress in Spain, the S5 maintains its insistence on the bigger screen, with the new model actually growing to 5.1inches, but it’s the health and fingerprint functions that will set the S5 apart from its rival.

The S5 has a heart monitor and is primed for usage with a host of new Samsung fitness gear, and if biometric technologies catch on in the shops, Samsung could win serious ground with the fingerprint scanner.

See also: US banking giant tests fingerprint biometrics

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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