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PayPal's fizzog-based payments app rubbished over reliability worries

'What if the shop assistant's an idiot?' asks security bod

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Shop assistants may be too thick to guarantee the security of Paypal's new real-world payment system, a leading security bod has cautioned.

PayPal is currently trialling a new system that allows shoppers in the London suburb of Richmond to pay for stuff using their ugly mugs.

Customers can pay for goods using their pocket fondleslab, as long as a shop assistant verifies their identity from a photograph.

But Andy Kemshall, co-founder and technical director of two-step authentication specialists SecurEnvoy, warned that the system could be fallible.

He said: "Using face recognition to authenticate quick and convenient payments in shops and cafes seems ideal in our ever-busy lives. However I have serious doubts about the security of this method.

"The completion of the transaction relies on the shop assistant verifying the customer’s face – certainly a risky method of authentication that could easily be subject to human error, be it accidental or deliberate. Using mobile phones to authenticate processes such as payments is the way forward. However, face recognition technology, as it stands, is nowhere near sophisticated enough to act as a reliable method."

Kemshall said that security systems needed to be "99.9 per cent perfect, at the very least" and claimed that biometrics did not yet offer this level of reliability.

He added: "Using manual face recognition, in the way exhibited by Paypal to authenticate payment in store, is a clear case of running before you can walk.”

Some 12 shops in the Richmond area are trialling the system, but PayPal hopes to roll the new system out to 2,000 shops by the end of 2013.

Rob Harper, head of retail services at PayPal, said: "This is another step on the journey towards a wallet-less high street, where customers will be able to leave their wallet or purse at home and pay using their phone or tablet. We predict that by 2016 this will become a reality." ®

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