Fingerprint scanning is now a common part of security systems, even the ones in smartphones. Fingerprints are unique for each person on the planet and are thus seen as a trusted source for protection of device access and are also widely used to pay for purchased goods and services.

The inclusion of the fingerprint in payments is also partly due to fingerprint scanners in smartphones. Seeing this rise in their use in transactions, MasterCard has incorporated a fingerprint scanner into their new credit cards. The new cards will be no wider than the previous ones and will be fully compatible with all existing Chip-and-PIN readers, but not with magnetic stripe-only terminals.

Built-in fingerprint scanning in the new MasterCard cards
Built-in fingerprint scanning in the new MasterCard cards

Ajay Bhalla, MasterCard’s chief of security, said that the new cards will offer “additional convenience and security” to customers. Many security experts believe that this is a great move towards the better security of such cards.

With the combination of chip and PIN, the PIN is the weaker element. Using a fingerprint gets rid of that. Fingerprints have helped us avoid using terrible passwords, and even the most gullible person is not going to cut off their finger if [a criminal] asks nicely.

Said the Chief scientist at Berlin’s Security Research Labs, Karsten Nohl said to BBC News. However, the fingerprint security feature may not be as good as it seems. Contrary to popular belief, it is still quite easy to steal and/or fake a fingerprint.

A person’s fingerprint can be obtained using simple things like a dental mold. And once someone’s fingerprint is obtained by a third party, that fingerprint cannot be changed. PINS and passwords, however, can be changed at a moment’s notice.

The new cards are currently in a trial phase in South Africa, with trials later planned for Europe and Asia-Pacific. The cards are expected to be launched at the end of 2017.


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