Smartphone makers must perform a delicate balancing act between security and ease of use in their devices.
For example, the biometric fingerprint readers on newer phones are usually discussed in the context of security—but whether or not they help or hurt device security is a complex question.
Fingerprint readers were added to smartphones so that we wouldn’t have to enter our passcodes into our devices 50 times a day when we felt like sending a tweet, checking our email, or browsing the news. They also make digital payments way easier. In order to get people in the habit of making mobile payments, device makers like Samsung and Apple knew they had to make the process at least as easy as whipping out a credit card. If users had to enter a passcode for every payment, it certainly wouldn’t be as convenient as using their AmEx or VISA.
That’s why they made it unnecessary for users to enter a passcode, or even wake up the phone, to complete a mobile payment. On an iPhone, the user just rests a thumb on the phone’s fingerprint reader and holds the phone near the store’s payment scanner. On a Samsung Galaxy S7, for example, the user swipes up from the home button, then performs the fingerprint scan, then places the phone near the payment scanner. No need to enter a passcode.
But fingerprint authentication may very well be less secure than passcode identification. Read more