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Are fingerprint passwords the future?

Brian Allen a
Ulster Bank Head of Direct Banking, Brian Allen.
Rebecca Kincade on February 20, 2015 - 10:00 am in In Depth

From this week Ulster Bank customers will be the first in Northern Ireland to be able to log in to their mobile banking app using only their fingerprint.

Using Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor, Ulster Bank customers who have an iPhone 5s, 6 or 6 Plus will be able to access their mobile banking app within seconds. The technology recognises the customer’s unique fingerprint – making it easier and more convenient to access their finances.


Ulster Bank has introduced Apple’s Touch ID as part of its continuous investment in innovative new technologies to respond to the changing nature of how customers want to bank.

Ulster Bank’s customers are increasingly using digital technology to manage their banking. Over 50% of the Banks’ active customers across the island of Ireland actively use online banking. In Northern Ireland over 32.2 million mobile transactions were completed in 2014. Ulster Bank has seen over 29% increase in customers completing mobile transactions since January of this year.

Brian Allen, Head of Direct Banking, Ulster Bank said: “There has been a revolution in banking, as more and more of our customers are using digital technology to bank with us. It is not surprising given the seismic shift in consumers accessing content and services via their smartphones, which account for almost 70%* of all mobile users’ handsets. Adding Apple’s Touch ID to our mobile banking app will make it even easier and more convenient for them to access their accounts on the move and manage their finances.”

He continued, “We’re delighted to be the first bank in Ireland to make this innovative new technology available to customers and we continually invest in new technology to respond changing customer patterns. Our goal is to become the best bank for customer trust, service and advocacy so we want to continue adapting our service based on the valuable feedback we receive from our customers every day.”

Voice Recognition

Gareth Morrison, managing director, The Lava Group, commented: “RBS, along with NatWest, is allowing customers to access their accounts using the fingerprint recognition technology on iPhones. This is a UK industry first but we are likely to see biometric technology playing more of a role in our everyday lives over the coming years.

“At The Lava Group we have been integrating biometric technologies into access control and other security applications for the past 15 years. This technology can be used as an effective replacement for passwords in any setting and I anticipate that it won’t be long before it becomes a total replacement for traditional security measures.

“Unlike passwords, which can be copied or stolen, biometrics are much harder to replicate. You can’t write them down. They are unique to each customer. There is always the chance that they can be replicated, as with anything, but it would take a much more sophisticated attack to do this, rather than simply stealing a mobile phone and writing down a password.

“Northern Ireland is ahead of the UK in certain sectors in its adoption of biometric technology. The security sector in particular has shown that it is prepared to take perceived risks in this area, and those decisions are paying off with more effective access solutions now in place in several facilities.

“We expect more voice recognition technology to appear on every day apps as opposed to fingerprint biometrics. In order for a fingerprint system to work you need to install a scanner on to the hardware, however voice recognition only requires a microphone, which most phones and other devices already have. This will make it cheaper and easier to install, while still providing the same level of security for the end user.”