Home > 2014 > Identity Theft

A Free Retina Scan With Your Next Purchase?

Advertiser Disclosure Comments 0 Comments

Increasingly, legions of sophisticated hackers are infiltrating the most state-of-the-art data security strategies out there. The recent data compromises at Kmart and JPMorgan are in no way similar, except they share a common enemy. And while free retina scanners are probably a stretch, biometrics – the use of your biological data like fingerprints — may well be the next “less hackable” thing.

During what will doubtless be a relatively brief window of opportunity before biometrics make the move from being “poised to replace older forms of authentication” to “the new normal,” there is a marketing advantage, which is why it’s crucial for companies that handle sensitive information to get in front of the trend.

The cost of a data breach is terrifyingly high. Home Depot estimates that the massive data breach that affected 56 million customers this summer will cost the company several hundred million dollars—and that’s the figure they are using to assuage fears on the Street. The reality is probably much higher. Target’s breach may top out at the $1 billion mark. While the jury hasn’t even been empanelled as to what the JPMorgan breach will cost, it will leave a mark that will no doubt make news down the line.

With so much to lose, the implementation of biometrics-based consumer authentication may be the cheaper option for companies that handle the kinds of information hackers find so irresistible. And as Ann Cavoukian, former Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, has pointed out, “Security by Design” is a marketable value add for consumers. A few years ago that would have met with a resounding “Duh,” but as we trundle further into the dark woods of data insecurity, a slogan like “We keep you safe” has enormous appeal.

Apple appears to be working under this assumption, and the cost is built into your next phone contract. Apple Pay integrates the biometric thumb pass that was first launched as a whizbang feature on the iPhone 5S and is now available on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models. It’s a huge step forward in the realm of bio-specific authentication. Alaska Airlines has been experimenting with biometric thumb scans to streamline the check-in process.

While scans of body parts are promising bits of old news finding new applications in the marketplace of data rapture, there has been a fair amount of noise this week about voiceprints when the Associated Press reported on the increasingly common practice of harvesting of voice samples for later use in the identity authentication process. Apparently, the variables that made Nipper the RCA dog tilt his head at the sound of his master’s voice are as unique as the whorls and lines of a thumbprint, and just as easy to collect—if not easier. While there are some critics, voice recognition seems—for the time being—a potentially promising security protocol in the authentication process.

As companies roll out these high-tech upgrades, however, that’s no reason for consumers to be any less vigilant about protecting their identity. The 3 Ms should still be your mantra: Minimize your risk of exposure, Monitor and Manage the damage. Make yourself a harder target and know what to do if and when you become one. Keeping an eye on your credit scores and reports is one way to monitor your identity. You can check your credit reports for signs of identity theft (i.e. new accounts you didn’t open) for free once a year on AnnualCreditReport.com. And you can also track your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com.

The new reality all companies face today is that there is no such thing as a completely secure system. Whether you protect files with a voiceprint or store your most valuable data offline on vellum scrolls, at some moment in time someone somewhere is going to get around your battlements. It doesn’t matter where or how it’s kept: It can be got.

If you want to get anywhere in the penumbra of dangers out there, you have to embrace the reality of your risk and keep abreast of the latest thing that, for the time being, is keeping the snipers from hitting their mark. While the odds are forever not in your favor that you will stop your next data breach, you can contain the damage by being prepared.

The window for cashing in on the marketing potential here is limited. Apple has already grabbed more than a little of that prize, but if there is a takeaway message here, it’s to be found in the Apple model, which doesn’t lead with a security solution so much as it incorporates it.

More on Identity Theft:

Image: rvlsoft

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Our Owners

Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. which is the owner and administrator of a number of business related to credit and credit repair, including CreditRepair.com, and eFolks. In addition, Progrexion also provides services to Lexington Law Firm as a third party provider. Despite being owned by Progrexion, it is not the role of the Credit.com editorial team to advocate the use of the company’s other services. In articles, reporters may mention credit repair as an option, for example, but we’ll also be sure to note the various alternatives to that service. Furthermore, you may see ads for credit repair services on Credit.com, but the editorial team isn’t responsible for the creation or implementation of those ads, anymore than reporters for the New York Times or Washington Post are responsible for the ads on their sites.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team