Banking at HSBC and First Direct is about to change in a big way. The bank has announced that it will replace conventional passwords with new biometric security in the form of voice recognition and fingerprint readers.
HSBC promises that voice recognition is both safer and more convenient than conventional passwords.
The new announcement highlights a 'period of intense change in bank security' according to David Mount, an exec at Micro Focus, Britain's second-largest software company.
But just how safe is this new form of authentication? With the FBI struggling to crack an iPhone's six-digit passcode, are our voices any more secure than a number that would take an advanced computer months to crack?
The simple answer according to HSBC UK is yes, it is more secure.
"[The software] takes more than 100 different measurements, so for most people even with a cold, the vocal tract doesn’t change, and behavioural factors such as the speed of speech, their accent and pronunciation are still there,” says HSBC's head of customer contact Joe Gordon.
Customers will reportedly provide a voice print to the bank which will allow the company's software to cut through what we might perceive as problems including of course, having a cold.
But what about a recording of someone's voice? According to HSBC the software is powerful enough to identity the difference between an organic voice being spoken down the phone and a recording of someone's voice.
As well as voice recognition for phone banking, the company has announced that like many other banks it will be giving customers the option of replacing their mobile banking passwords with fingerprint recognition using the Touch ID sensor found on the iPhone.
HSBC says its customers only need to download the HSBC app on the iTunes App Store and then simply follow the instruction to link their fingerprint to the app.
While passwords can be effective they have to be complex enough which has increasingly become a sticking point for users who have so many passwords for so many different services.
“Passwords quite simply aren’t working for the banking industry. They are too easy for hackers to steal and too difficult for customers to remember, which is why we’re seeing banks like HSBC shift towards biometrics." says Mount.
Password managers can offer a way of having complex passwords without having to remember them all.
There are of course apps out there which can mitigate the problems surrounding remembering multiple passwords. 1Password for example asks for one 'Master' password and then can generate almost impossibly difficult passwords for your multiple accounts which it will then automatically enter for you.