Palm sensors increase security of bank transactions

Bradesco, the largest private bank in Brazil, is equipping its ATMs with biometric technology to increase account holder security.  (Courtesy of Bradesco)

Bradesco, the largest private bank in Brazil, is equipping its ATMs with biometric technology to increase account holder security. (Courtesy of Bradesco)

By Patricia Knebel for Infosurhoy.com—01/03/2010

PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil – The palm of your hand is the country’s financial system’s new ally for bank transactions at ATMs.

Bradesco, the largest private bank in Brazil, with 22.5 million accounts, is equipping its machines with biometric technology in order to increase security.

These systems, which already have been in use for about three years in Japan, use a sensor that reads a palm’s blood flow and makes sure it is a positive match to its data before granting access to the account. Bradesco has installed the device on 20,000 of its 36,657 ATMs.

Account holders no longer need a personal identification number (PIN) when making a transaction at an ATM equipped with a sensor.

“We were the first bank in the Western Hemisphere to use biometrics as a means of authentication at ATMs,” Laércio Albino Cezar, the vice president of Bradesco’s information technology sector says. “Just in December, there were 4.5 million transactions performed without any type of fraud.”

Cezar explains that the system is extremely accurate because only eight in every two million palms have identical blood flow patterns.

Another technological innovation that is being used to increase the security of bank transactions is credit and debit cards with digital certificates, which require users to enter a numerical code to access their accounts. Pioneered by Banrisul in Rio Grande do Sul, the idea is being adopted by Banco do Brasil and Caixa Econômica Federal nationwide.

“This year we are going to change three million clients from the old cards to new ones with embedded chips,” says Jorge Krug, Banrisul’s superintendent of security for information technology. “Brazil is the only country in Latin America to use a certificate for these types of transactions.”

The bankcard with an embedded chip also offers a secure option that opens the way for the use of electronic government services as they become available. Among possible e-government services are making appointments at the public health department, registering a business with the commercial board and enrolling children in school.

Brazil is a leader in banking technology due to the development of creative solutions for a financial system that during the 1990s handled an inflation rate that reached 81% per month before the macroeconomic Real Plan in 1994.

The escalation in the number of sophisticated crimes and frauds in the banking sector served as the catalyst for Brazil to tighten its security, making it a worldwide leader in security software.

“Today there are defrauders who go so far as to place a fake machine in front of a legitimate one in order to collect personal data from clients,” says Gustavo Roxo, director of the technology sector of the Brazilian federation of banks (Febraban). “For this reason, it is essential to invest in more rigorous security procedures such as cards with chips and biometrics.”

ATMs are the most used method for bank transactions, as they are responsible for a third of all transactions, according to industry officials. Banking via the Internet is second, representing 18% of all transactions.

Alexandre Freire, a security consultant, says that many banks are adopting the latest solutions for online fraud prevention.

“With the combination of data and an understanding of user behavior, it is possible to deter a criminal even if a customer gains access to a computer system with his or her real credentials,” Freire says.

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