Bank of Cyprus adds biometrics to its EMV cards

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Seeking a way to facilitate higher-value contactless transactions, the Bank of Cyprus plans to issue an EMV card deploying biometric authentication to replace a PIN code.

Digital security provider Gemalto is supplying the biometric dual-interface card that will operate for chip and contactless payments. Users will place their thumb over a sensor located near the corner of the card, in a spot where one would naturally hold a card to make a contactless or chip reader payment.

Cardholders will authenticate through fingerprint recognition when used at terminals in the Republic of Cyprus that already accept biometric authentication through a fingerprint sensor. When the sensor detects the fingerprint, it compares the scan with the referenced biometric data stored in the card.

"Gemalto's biometric sensor payment card is designed to provide maximum security and data privacy," Bertrand Knopf, Gemalto's executive vice president of banking and payment, said in a Thursday press release.

"Using biometrics for contactless payments is a natural move as it fits in naturally with the gesture used to pay," Knopf said. "It allows a better user experience, enabling higher transaction amounts without entering a PIN while benefiting from the convenience of contactless."

The biometric sensor card is powered by the payment terminal and does not require an embedded battery, meaning there is no limit on battery life or the number of transactions.

Bank customers can complete the enrollment of their cards at the bank branches, using a Gemalto tablet designed to capture and transmit the biometric fingerprint data to a card. That process eliminates the potential for biometric data to run through other networks, and keeps the fingerprint template stored only on the card, Amsterdam-based Gemalto said.

"In order to bring seamless authentication to the banking sector, Gemalto has leveraged its extensive expertise from secure government documents and leadership in biometric applications," Stelios Trachonitis, Card Center manager for Bank of Cyprus, said in the release.

Gemalto has been seeking new advancements in EMV cards, as the company has struggled financially as EMV card manufacturing demand has tapered off since the technology was first introduced years ago. French IT services company Atos late last year made a pitch to acquire Gemalto before losing out to a bid from Thales.

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Biometrics EMV Payment fraud Cyprus