Take a selfie to bank: MasterCard testing facial recognition smartphone app

MasterCard is experimenting with a new security app that uses facial recognition to verify mobile payments

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MasterCard is testing a security app that uses facial scans and recognition technology to approve payment for purchases made with a smartphone.

In the trial, the U.S. multinational financial services giant will have users hold their phone up as though taking a selfie to approve transactions.

In an interview with CNN Money, MasterCard's president of enterprise security solutions, Ajay Bhall, said “the new generation, which is into selfies ... I think they'll find it cool. They'll embrace it."

To use the feature, you firstly have to download the MasterCard phone app.

A pop-up will then ask for your authorization after you wish to make a payment for your purchase.

There will be two options to choose from; fingerprint, which only requires a touch, or facial recognition, which requires you stare at the phone and blink once.

It was decided by MasterCard's security researchers that blinking is the best way to prevent a thief from holding up a picture of you to fooling the system.

According to CNN Money, MasterCard said it does not actually receive a picture of your finger or face. The fingerprint and facial recognition scans instead create a code that stays on the device which is then transmitted over the Internet to MasterCard.

MasterCard, which is using this as a way of cutting down fraud, is exploring facial recognition as an alternative to SecureCode – its current security software that asks online shoppers for a password to make purchases.

However a security expert told the BBC that facial recognition should be complemented with extra measures of security.

Although Mastercard's app asks users to blink to prove that they are human, Ken Munro, security researcher at Pen Test Partners told the BBC that this has been spoofed in the past.

"People took photographs and animated them, drawing eyelids on," Munro said. "There have been advances in biometrics since then, but they're not quite there yet."

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