scorecardAnd now, Aadhaar-enabled smartphones for easy verification and money transfer
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And now, Aadhaar-enabled smartphones for easy verification and money transfer

And now, Aadhaar-enabled smartphones for easy verification and money transfer
Tech2 min read

As reported earlier, the Indian government has planned to make Aadhaar-enabled smartphones, with which users would be able to self-authenticate and let businesses and banks verify the identity of their clients. This would also help in the government’s aim of a cashless society.

While applauding this plan Nandan Nikelani, former chairman of UIDAI told ET that, "Iris and fingerprint sensors are now becoming a standard feature in smartphones anyway, and this requirement will only take a minor tweak to the operating system. Once enabled, people will be able to use phones to do self-authentication and KYC (know your customer)."

In July, senior executives of UIDAI and smartphone companies met to discuss ways to allow smartphones let citizens authenticate their fingerprints and iris on the phone, so that they could avail government services from the comfort of their homes.

The most immediate use for these smartphones would be the Unified Payment Interface (UPI), a new payment system which would allow money transfer between any two parties by simply using their mobile phones and a virtual payment address.

"The two-factor authentication in UPI is now being done with mobile phone as one factor, and MPIN as the second factor. But once you have Aadhaar authentication on the phone, then the second factor can be biometric authentication through Aadhaar," said Nilekani.

With time, Aadhaar authentication will also be made open to third party apps, said another person familiar with the ongoing discussions on the condition of anonymity.

This would let users allow apps to access their biometric and iris scans, just like they grant access to other features like camera, contacts, SMS etc. However, from their end, handset makers have raised security concerns about using iris scan for Aadhar authentication.

"The primary challenge lies in safe storing of the iris scan between the time it is captured by the camera and then sent to UIDAI server seeking authentication," said an industry insider.

For this, the he proposal includes a "hardware secure zone" which would encrypt biometric data before sending it out. However, even this isn’t a foolproof idea.

"Unfortunately, from the biometric sensor the data goes to the hardware secure zone via the operating system. Therefore, the biometric data can be intercepted by the operating system before it is sent to the hardware secure zone," said Sunil Abraham, executive director at Bengaluru-based research organisation, the Centre for Internet and Society.

To this, Nilekani said, "the reluctance to make changes at the vendor level is mainly coming from a desire for control of biometric data for strategic and commercial purposes. Privacy and security are bogus reasons." He added that both ends, the handset and the Aadhaar database, will be using the highest level of encryption.

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