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The Dawn of Passkey Technology in South Africa’s Banking Sector

Published December 27, 2023
7 months ago

The banking sector in South Africa is on a transformative journey, weighing the potential of a passkey landscape to replace traditional passwords. As tech giants globally push towards eradicating password authentication, this article delves into the readiness and perspectives of South African banks on adopting passkey technology to protect their customers against digital fraud.

Despite ongoing consumer education about creating robust passwords, the simplicity of password choices remains a significant security loophole. Basic passwords like "123456" or "password" are still commonplace, despite the risks. To combat this, banks have introduced complexity requirements for passwords, but customers remain vulnerable due to sophisticated social engineering and phishing attacks.

Banks are now eyeing passkeys, a FIDO Alliance brainchild, as a new authentication method that stores credentials on a user's device, removing the need for typing in usernames and passwords. This system, underpinned by public key cryptography, is hailed for its potential to provide more secure sign-in processes.

Our investigation into the matter reveals that Absa Bank is already pioneering the shift from passwords by leveraging biometric login processes, including their Absa Banking App where they integrated passkey handshaking technology. Bank Zero, one of the nation's newest banks, has been an early adopter of passkey technology, specifically choosing to utilize biometric authentication instead of less secure methods like pattern matching.

Discovery Bank views emerging technologies like passkeys as essential for enhancing the security and experience of their customers. The bank emphasizes the necessity of employing a diverse range of technologies for customer authentication rather than relying on a single method.

FNB, another major player in the market, has opted to remain mum on its use of passkey technology, citing security concerns, but reassures customers of its dedication to fraud prevention and account safety.

Nedbank is tuned into the cyber security arena's innovations such as passkeys, expressing the importance of moving away from predictable human behaviors associated with password creation. They highlight their existing passwordless authentication options and stress interoperability across platforms and devices.

Standard Bank is currently evaluating the incorporation of passkeys into its security controls, with the understanding that this new authentication approach significantly diverges from traditional methods that customers are used to.

TymeBank is already facilitating passkey logins via fingerprint identification on its mobile app, underscoring their commitment to customer security and an openness to new technologies that bolster this priority.

This exploration into South African banks' adoption of passkey technology reveals a sector actively engaging with new security solutions to provide safer digital banking experiences for their customers. While passwords are not vanishing anytime soon, the trajectory towards a passwordless future seems evident in the South African banking landscape.

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