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Wells Fargo to Roll Out Eye-Scans for Mobile App Sign-In

American banking giant Wells Fargo plans to go ahead with its scheme to use eye scans to verify the identity of customers using its mobile app.

It said that it plans to roll out biometric security technology by July. Customers will use their iPhone cameras to take a picture of their eyes, and software in the bank’s mobile app will then translate the image into digital code to match a stored template. The system looks at the pattern of blood vessels in the whites of the eyes—a unique marker, like a fingerprint.

The system will only be in place for commercial lending customers—who typically handle millions of dollars in transactions. The existing authentication mechanism requires a user name, password and corporate ID number, and also a code from a hardware security token.

"User names and passwords are basically 15 years old. They're at the end of their useful life," Secil Watson, who oversees online and mobile applications for Wells Fargo commercial banking, told the LA TImes. "Something needs to take their place."

Wells Fargo will also soon roll out fingerprint identification, it said.

“Compared to entering a PIN or a password, biometrics offer a fantastically convenient user experience which is well-suited to the mobile environment, so it is easy to see why they are in such demand,” said Sirpa Nordlund, executive director, at Mobey Forum. “Naturally, banks and financial institutions are keen to offer this experience, but must also ensure they strike the right balance between convenience and security.”

A recent Mobey Forum survey shows that the vast majority of banks intend to implement biometrics in the relatively near future, just as the number of handset manufacturers planning to integrate biometric capabilities into their devices rises.

One effect of this integration of biometrics into mobile handsets is that it has removed a significant level of cost from banks, the research pointed out. But to move forward, banks must make a range of choices about factors such as system architectures, biometric modalities, proprietary or open solutions, security, and collaboration versus competition. While the technology will continue to develop, collaboration and standardization will be the best way for banks to address this, the Forum concluded.

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