New Tech. Halifax uses heartbeat sensor to secure online banking

SECURITY. ECG signals could replace online banking passwords following a successful trial by Halifax. 

A proof of concept experiment used an ECG band to record a person’s cardiac rhythm, which could then be used to login to an online banking service. An electrocardiogram or ECG is the unique rhythm of a heartbeat and, unlike a textpassword or fingerprint, it is incredibly difficult to fake.

The technology, known as a Nymi Band, uses Bluetoothto pair with a companion app for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. In order to work it first has to record a person’s ECG to the band and link itself to the app. ECG data is captured when the customer wears the band on one wrist and touches a sensor on the top of the band with their opposite finger. 

Halifax said the technology would only work if the band was on the account holder’s wrist, with the band also only detectable by device it was originally paired with.

The technology is the work of Toronto-based firm Nymi and has already been tested by the Royal Bank of Canada. In the test 250 bank staff and customers used the wristband to login to their online banking. Halifax’s experiment with the technology is the first time it has been used by a bank in the UK.

Marc Lien, director of innovation and digital development at Halifax told that the technology provided strong protection against intrusion. 

« The fundamental difference between a heartbeat pattern and fingerprint or iris scanning, is that a heartbeat pattern cannot be replicated fraudulently, » he said. « The closed security loop at the heart of this technology prevents fraudsters from being able to steal the pattern and use it to access services. » 

Lien said the technology remained a proof of concept, adding that Halifax would continue to look at new technology to make banking more secure.


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