A week or so ago the media was awash with reports of a brand new identification technology being trialled by Barclays Bank for their business customers. This involves using a small, portable scanner to map the pattern of tiny veins in a person’s finger, or finger-tip. Apparently, the pattern is every bit as unique as the more traditional fingerprint and the technology may well be ‘rolled out’ to all customers in the not-too-distant future.
I immediately started asking questions, including what made this better than fingerprint technology, and what would prevent bank robbers simply cutting off someone’s finger and presenting it, suitably disguised of course, to the scanner. The answer lies in the following throwaway comment in a BBC News article from 5 September:
Only a living finger is accepted by the scanner, reducing the risk that fraudsters will use substitutes or copies to break into a bank account.
In other words, although they don’t spell it out (to protect the squeamish, perhaps!) the vein pattern must degrade faster after death than the pattern of a fingerprint, making it far harder, or even impossible, to use the finger unless it’s still attached to its original owner. Of course, it would still be possible to coerce the account holder in other ways (kidnapping family, blackmail, threats of violence), but then that’s true of almost any method of identification.
Crime writers might want to take note of the development for any books involving gangs breaking into customers’ bank accounts.