n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - An exploration of the criminogenic risks of biometric attributes used for payment authentication

Special Edition 5
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



The nature of commerce in recent years has been innovative and fast-paced. Together, the internet and technology created the platform for e-commerce, resulting in new payment systems and unfortunately, increased levels of all forms of cybercrime. Consequently, new payment authentication technologies, based on biometrics, to protect the integrity of such systems have and are being developed. However, as these technologies are developed and introduced, perpetrators have proved that they will find ways to bypass the security of the new technological e-commerce processes to meet their own criminal ends. It therefore becomes imperative that before these technologies are introduced to consumers, all avenues are explored in order to identify any potential loopholes. While biometric technologies do increase consumer confidence, recent reports highlight that they also come with their own set of risks. The question then arises: can these risks be minimised, if not totally removed? Moreover, how can this be achieved? There is no simple answer to this, but one key factor should be considered: constant negotiation of these processes of authentication; re-examine existing technologies, look for loopholes and redesign. We already know that perpetrators are crafty and will find ways to bypass security levels, so instead of making innovation the focus, stronger authentication measures should in fact be the focus by subjecting all biometric systems to regular liveness testing, and ensuring a higher entropy. Biometrics has the potential to be at the forefront of security in payment authentication for e-commerce transactions for one main reason: (a) no two people can have the exact same (identical) biometric characteristics. Due to this, biometrics offers a remedy to the main challenge presented by cyberspace: who (as in identifiable person) committed the crime? Biometrics has the capability to accurately affirm the identity that cyberspace negates and thus should be designed as such to create a secure, reliable and cost efficient way for all people to transact online.

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