TSB will become the first bank in Europe to implement iris scanning authentication from a mobile device when it rolls out the new technology in September 2017.
TSB banking customers with a Samsung Galaxy 8 will be able to register their irises using the Samsung device and log into accounts simply by looking into the camera.
Fingerprint scanning has become a widely accepted mode of biometric recognition, with Touch ID available on most modern-day smartphones and devices. Iris authentication, however, is more complex, and currently available on a limited number of mobile devices.
Customer interest in iris scanning for authentication is growing rapidly, however. One study showed that interest in biometric authentication in general, and iris scanning in particular, almost doubled from 2014-2016.
Carlos Abarca, CIO at TSB, said that this form of biometric authentication offers a convenient and secure method of accessing accounts for mobile banking customers. “It’s extremely fast – it takes less than a second to get in – and the gesture is very natural. And you don’t have to remember secret numbers or passwords.”
He also noted that iris recognition was far more secure than fingerprint authentication, saying, “It takes advantage of 266 different characteristics, compared with 40 for fingerprints.”
However, in May of this year a hacking group claimed that they had beaten the iris scanning feature to unlock a Galaxy 8 smartphone with nothing more than a photograph and a contact lens. The hackers took an infrared picture in night-mode with a regular camera and placed a contact lens on the printed photograph to make the image appear to be a live eye to the scanner. With this relatively low-tech hack, the group claimed that it was able to unlock the phone with the iris scanner.
All the way back in 2012, a group of researchers from Madrid were able to recreate the image of an iris using digital codes of real irises stored in security systems, and use the recreation to circumvent biometric authentication.
However, Abraca remains confident in the security of the new TSB iris scanning system, noting that the bank was relying not only on biometrics but on the digital certificate of the device itself to complete authentication.