By adding fingerprint analysis to the latest version of the iPhone, Apple (AAPL) has acknowledged a problem bankers have been howling about for a decade: the need for stronger authentication.
The standard two-factor authentication a username and password has proven vulnerable to hacking, particularly when consumers leave the same passwords on every device they touch. Fingerprint scanning mitigates the risk. And by introducing biometric identification to the mass market, the new iPhone might make people more willing to wear wristbands that substitute heartbeats for passwords or use smartphone cameras that scan irises.
The TouchID feature in the iPhone 5S "could be used to combat a major source of security risk associated with passwords, namely password re-use," says Brendon Wilson, director of product management at the authentication vendor Nok Nok Labs. "Users routinely re-use passwords across multiple sites, which places them at increased risk when their password is compromised. Immediately every account at other sites where they used that password is essentially compromised. "
On Tuesday, Apple said it was splitting its next generation iPhone into two versions the 5S and the 5C.
One, the 5S, is more expensive, with a faster processor and the fingerprint scanner. It even comes in gold. The other is cheaper, plastic and sans biometrics.
The fingerprint feature works when the owner of an iPhone user hits the home button. The device will store that person's fingerprint data on the processor without ever holding actual images of a user's fingerprint, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Apple has long been expected to release a new security scheme as part of its famous mobile device.
In July 2012, the iPhone maker agreed to acquire AuthenTec for roughly $350 million a clear move to buy its fingerprint-authentication technology.
That said, the authentication technology isn't that much of a game-changer for bankers yet.
Most notably, third-party developers (that means you, mobile banking app makers) are walled off from using the feature for enterprise software.