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CR Money Minute: Better smart phone banking security?

Consumer Reports News

Several major U.S. banks are beta-testing a new way to give you access to your mobile banking account, which could mark the beginning of the end for your password headaches, according to Toby Rush, CEO of EyeVerify, a Kansas City, Kan., technology firm.

Rush did not name the banks, citing confidentiality agreements. But he said testing was expected to continue through summer and consumers might see the technology on the market as early as this fall. Wireless carriers are also interested, Rush said.

EyeVerify calls its biometric identity authentication technology "eyeprints," and Consumer Reports Money Minute was there to see it demonstrated last week in San Francisco.

An estimated 50 million U.S. consumers now do their banking by smart phone. If you're one of them, you may still have lingering doubts about the security of checking your account balances, transferring funds, paying bills, and otherwise managing your most private financial affairs on a device that could easily fall into the wrong hands.

In fact, banking by cell phone is highly secure—for now. But with the number of people who use mobile banking expected to more than double by 2016, the number of criminals drawn to mobile banking fraud is also expected to rise, according to The Aite Group, a Boston-based financial services industry research firm.

Unfortunately, one of today's key defenses—password protection—is vulnerable to hacking. EyeVerify says its eyeprints, which scrutinize the vein patterns in the whites of your eyes, are a much more reliable method of confirming that you are the bank account holder that you say you are. EyeVerify's system produced a false accept rate of just 0.002 percent in 50,850 testing trials conducted for the company by the Biometric Standards, Performance & Assurance Lab at Purdue University. That's "actually better than fingerprints," says Rush.

However, until your mobile banking app sees the whites of your eyes, take these steps to boost your security:

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