Wells Fargo Is Testing Eye Scanning to Replace the Password

The time has come to shed the password. 

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Soon, you might have to offer up your retina before accessing your bank account.

Biometrics are no longer the stuff of distant sci-fi thrillers. In fact, banks like Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase already let their customers log into their accounts from mobile devices with their fingerprints. For important corporate accounts at Wells Fargo, the bank is piloting the use of eye scanning to verify users’ identities.

The huge technological strides in identity verification at banks is the answer to a years-long question: what comes after the password? Cybersecurity is an increasingly important issue for both corporate and individual account holders. Identity theft shot up by 47 percent in 2015, according to the Federal Trade Commission — perhaps due to the explosion of data breaches over the course of the year. And according to a January report, e-commerce fraud rose 7.1 percent in 2015 — so now, one in every 67 transactions is a fraud attempt, instead of one in every 72. Increasingly sophisticated hackers, aided by seemingly constant data hacks, combine to make keeping banking accounts secure a more Herculean task than ever.

And it isn’t just a matter of security — as more people log into their banking accounts through their mobile devices, entering in a long password can be annoying and difficult on a small keyboard. A simple finger tap or eye scan facilitates the process, making mobile banking more customer-friendly. That’s a solution both banks and their customers can get behind.

Fingerprints may be almost mainstream in banking security now, but that’s not where biometric innovation ends. (In fact, it’ll probably only be a matter of time before fingerprints can be hacked, too.)

If Wells Fargo’s eye scan experiment with high-value corporations goes well, the ultra-secure technique might eventually be rolled out to a more general corporate base, freeing employees of more cumbersome verification processes.

And late last year, Citigroup partnered with a biometric company called Diebold to begin testing ATMs that scan customers’ eyes before allowing them to complete transactions.

The internet may be becoming a less secure place, but at least banks are starting to catch on.