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Fingerprint recognition technology to be used by banks

Two major high street banks have announced that they will introduce fingerprint recognition technology to their smartphone applications as a method of allowing their customers to access their account information.

The applications, which will work with the standard technology installed on some of Apple’s smartphones, must be activated with security information and will be made available to customers of RBS and NatWest.

Using the Touch ID installed on the Apple iPhone 5s, 6 and 6 Plus customers have three attempts at accessing the application using their finger print, before they are asked to enter their personal login details. The feature can also only be enabled using the customers’ current login details.

The banks, which are both part of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, said that there are currently about 880,000 customers who are using their banking applications on the handsets the technology is compatible with.

"Risks are poorly understood"

However, a security expert has expressed concerns that the Touch ID technology is not secure enough.

A day after the launch of Touch ID on the Apple iPhone 5s, a group of hackers managed to access a phone using a fake fingerprint they made from a photograph of a fingerprint that was left on a glass surface.

Ben Schlabs, of SRLabs, a German hacking think tank, told the BBC: "The security implications are the same, it is just as dangerous... I think it has been shown that it is pretty easy to spoof it and the risks aren't fully understood."

"Just the fact that you are carrying the key around with you and leave copies of it exposed everywhere you go makes it a very different risk to something that is inside your brain. The risks are poorly understood."

However, he said that most people would have little need to worry, adding: "There have not been any reports that I know of with the iPhone sensor of actual crimes being enabled by it".

While Apple itself has said that the Touch ID technology is secure, it did admit that it was meant to provide its customers with convenience, and is not designed to replace more traditional security measures.

This is a message echoed by the banks too. Stuart Haire, managing director, RBS and NatWest Direct Bank, said: "There has been a revolution in banking, as more and more of our customers are using digital technology to bank with us.

"Adding TouchID to our mobile banking app makes it even easier and more convenient for customers to manage their finances on the move and directly responds to their requests."

According to the British Banking Association, customers have downloaded more 12.4 million baking applications in Britain.

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