What technology is it that does not demand the user perform the cumbersome task of memorizing different passwords and PINs? Yes, the answer is biometric technology. When it comes to verification, biometric technology really characterizes the given person. Biometric systems can be employed in almost all applications that require authentication mechanisms. But what are the different types of biometric authentication technologies and what are the security issues in biometric authentication? Let’s get started to see the big picture.
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Biometric authentication meaning
According to Cambridge English Dictionary, biometric refers to the detailed information about someone’s body, such as the patterns of color in their eyes, that can be used to identify who that person is. Biometric authentication refers to a user identity verification process that entails biological traits, including voices, facial characteristics, retinas, etc.
Cybersecurity Ventures forecasts global cybercrime costs to reach $10.5 trillion USD per year by 2025. That is a $3 trillion USD increase in 2015. With cybercrime on the rise, it is more critical than ever for organisations to help users and employees verify their identities. Hence, biometric authentication has become one of the most trustworthy methods.
In case you would like to know more about the cyberattacks that happened last month [May 2021], go ahead and download our cyber security infographic – Cyber Security Infographic: List of Cyber Attacks.
Types of biometric authentication technologies
There are literally many biometric techniques available nowadays. Although some of them are in the stage of the research only, a significant number of technologies are already mature which are discussed below.
Among these, fingerprint identification is the oldest of all. The fingerprint is a very certain method for authenticating a person, because all fingerprints are unique. Did you know that even identical twins have different fingerprints? Fingerprint identification is based upon pattern recognition where the arches, loops and whorls of the fingerprint ridges are compared with the previously stored information. Because this technology has seen some substantial advances during the last years, fingerprint identification is extremely fast now.
Palm print recognition
A palm print recognition system detects an individual using palmprint features that may or may not be noticeable to the naked eye. Palm prints are abundant in physical attributes of skin patterns such as lines, points, and textures. This technology is used together with fingerprint identification to increase the accuracy of identification.
Voice identification (or voice recognition)
Voice recognition is an expedient form of biometric authentication that elicits personal voice patterns to authenticate an individual’s identity. This technology uses the innate biological characteristics of an individual’s voice to create a voiceprint that is unique to that person. It is difficult to spoof voice recognition, thanks to its biometric properties. On the other hand, it is more user-friendly because users do not need to remember passwords and answers to security questions. Voice identification is not just for call centers. Nowadays mobile banking applications are also using this method for enhanced mobile banking security.
This form of biometric technology is in the same category as face recognition. Iris scanning biometrics measure the unique patterns in the colored circle of your eye to identify and authenticate one’s identity. Iris-based identification technologies are commonly used as a physical access control modality, which is perfect for high throughput environments that require high accuracy and speed. Did you know that iris scanners gather about 240 biometric features, the combination of which is unique to every eye? Interestingly, iris recognition readers are installed at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland.
Benefits of biometric authentication
Forbes says that biometrics are proving to be better than passwords because they are easier to use, and also provide greater privacy and security.
After delving into the biometric authentication types, let’s discuss the genuine advantages of biometric authentication now. Can you guess what benefit comes on top? Of course, it is the high security and assurance of biometric technology. Using passwords is pretty generic, and anybody with a pass can obtain access. We are sure that you have already seen many data breaches where personal identifying information and passwords have been compromised. Nonetheless, biometric authentication is hard to falsify and it functions as a road-block for fraudsters where only authorized users can gain access.
Secondly, biometrics means faster access. Unlike typing your password, a fingerprint or palm scanner can lock and unlock your device so quickly where you will no longer need to remember your passwords. Faster access brings along the convenience, that once biometrics is activated, you are good to go.
What about the benefits of biometrics for businesses, you may ask. The return on investment (ROI) on biometric authentication systems is high as it prevents unauthorized access and breaches to a great extent. Furthermore, validation of identity with biometrics is sufficient since it is greatly reliable and businesses do not need to invest in other systems.
Multi-factor authentication using biometrics
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a security mechanism that requires the user to provide 2 or more pieces of evidence to authenticate his/her identity. You can see it as an extra layer of security to ensure your account is not compromised. Many security organizations around the world, including NIST, recommends using MFA whenever possible. What if we told you that when MFA is coupled with biometrics you can have superior security and a great user experience?
One recent study by LastPass that surveyed 750 IT and security professionals found that 92% of businesses believe delivering a passwordless experience for end-users is the future for their organization. Although no security method is 100% secure, when combined with biometrics technology, MFA becomes more robust.
Security issues in biometric authentication
Authentication is known to be the most critical link in the security chain that constrains access to data resources to legitimate users only. In fact, biometric systems have an impactful potential to provide security for a variety of applications. But is biometric security really secure? Here are two main concerns with biometric authentication systems.
- Spoofing threats: Spoofing is when an intruder impersonates an authorised device/user to steal data or bypass access control systems. Have you ever heard of “artificial fingers” and “high-resolution iris images”? These are only 2 examples of spoof attacks on various biometric modalities. Today fingerprints can be collected from anything that is touched and even voices can be acquired when somebody uses a phone-based application. That said, biometric systems have undergone significant evolution over a couple of years and became more advanced.
- Biometric changes: Biometric authentication represents your presence in all your activities. But can anybody take your identity and be “you”? If a breach occurs due to biometric authentication, once attackers obtain access, they can then modify the logins for these legit accounts and lock the legitimate user out of their account. If this is going to be the case, the users should immediately turn off biometrics on their devices and revert back to the default. This is where another novel technology – Internet of Things – becomes pivotal as a way to enhance the verification process of biometrics.
Will biometric technology live alongside passwords?
Is this the end of passwords? No. Biometric technology is not a replacement for passwords. The aim of biometric technology is not to substitute the current processes of authentication like passwords. Instead, the target is to solidify some aspects of the current authentication systems by supplementing them where possible through incorporating new processes. Passwords are the key to everything you do online. Learn more about password security best practices in 2021 and prevent theft of your information.
The question should not be whether biometrics is going to eliminate passwords, but whether the implementation of this technology can be of help in the current world of passwords. In fact, passwords have always been the basis of authentication and we do not see any reason why this should not continue. This technology is promising, and hence, we will certainly see it being used in conjunction with additional solutions to bolster the security of devices and systems.
The era of biometric authentication is here. Biometric forms of authentication are increasingly preferred for their greater convenience, versatility, and other benefits over traditional usernames and passwords. Now you know more about different types of biometric authentication technologies and the advantages of biometric systems.
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