Biometrics are becoming popular in making authentication dramatically, more comfortable, faster, and more secure than traditional passwords. Aside from being part of cutting-edge technology, biometrics have a place in the eyes and hearts of enterprises. However, there is more to unique identifiers than your behaviour and body, because biometric identity comes with risks when used as standalone authentication. That is why modern security is so focused on decreasing these risks and providing a more robust security solution. In this article, we are going to look at the basics of biometrics authentication and cybersecurity. We will also be answering some of the most commonly asked questions about biometrics.
What are biometrics
Simply put, biometrics refers to the measurements of biological characteristics that are used to identify individuals. A few examples of these forms of body characteristics include facial recognition, fingerprint mapping, retina scans, vein, or speech patterns. Researchers have found that the way someone walks, sits, their body odour, ear shapes, facial contortions, or the veins on the hands are unique identifiers. The most relatable examples of biometric identification include the fingerprint and facial recognition found in mobile phones.
As biometric technology continues to advance, biometrics are expected to add convenience and offer more security than passwords making identification faster and easier while also helping law enforcement catch criminals. Biometric data must be unique, collectible, and permanent to be useful. Once your information is recorded and saved, it is compared and matched in a special database. That is why you may not be able to unlock your facial recognition lock if you manipulate your face or when your fingers are dirty.
Types of biometrics explained
Biometric identifiers correlate with intrinsic human characteristics. While they are used in many areas in our lives, such as mobile phones application, biometrics are mainly used for security purposes. They are grouped into three primary categories:
- Morphological biometrics: They involve the body structures and physical traits like the fingerprint, your eyes, or the shape of your face.
- Physical biometrics: This type of biometric use traits at the molecular and genetic levels. They involve blood or DNA, which can be obtained through any of your body fluids.
- Behavioural biometrics: From their name, these types of biometrics are based on traits that are unique to each other such as how you talk, walk, sit, or even how you type on a keyboard.
Biometric data types
Some of the examples of biometrics that are commonly in organizations and highly private areas include:
Fingerprint recognition: Over the past couple of years, fingerprint scanners have quickly become ubiquitous due to their extensive deployment on mobile phones. All devices that can be touched by fingers are an easy target for fingerprint scans. It captures the uniqueness of a finger while concentrating on the valleys and ridges on a finger.
Physiological recognition: Facial recognition is a widespread recognition system method for devices and security systems equipped with a camera. However, other physiological recognition types have emerged with time, such as retinal scanning, ear recognition, and palm vein recognition.
Iris scans: Iris recognition involves a close study of the iris’s unique patterns–the colourful part of the eye around the pupil. This form of biometric identification is mainly used in security applications and not prevalent in consumer markets, but we are yet to see how businesses may want to use it.
Voice recognition: Every individual’s sound is unique–the sound waves make this possible when you speak on a device. You can use this form of identification in a bank in your mobile accounts as a password. It can also be installed in doorbells to open doors or gates for authorized people.
Behavioural characteristics: This form of biometric identification analyzes how you interact with computer systems such as handwriting, keystrokes, how you walk, sit, or use the mouse. Such traits help assess who a person is and how familiar you are to the data you are keying.
Where are biometrics useful
Biometrics are a reliable form of identification and authentication. Large companies can benefit mainly by setting up secure biometric identification systems that are more powerful, efficient, and fast. Organizations can use biometrics is in various ways, such as:
- Unlocking IT assets and devices
- Managing access to the building premises such as entry to other private facilities
- Making payments through a smartphone
- Performing security check-ups on new employees and visitors
How do biometrics work?
Like any other machine, you need to get familiar with your device to navigate through the enrolment process. Most companies use a form of biometrics in one way or another. It could be fingerprint sensors, voice, or face recognition. To get this working, you will need to record your biometric information successfully and store it. It will be saved later for comparison. For instance, for fingerprint scanners, you can scan your fingerprint several times on a fingerprint reader and allow the device to record, analyze, and store it as an encoded hash of your personal biometric.
This encoded hash is your fingerprint that is encrypted so that it cannot be altered nor used by other individuals–making it difficult for hackers to decrypt. If you own a large company, you can have your employees record their biometrics and unlock doors, devices, rooms, and other areas to improve security. However, before using a biometric system, we recommend conducting thorough research before purchasing, installing, or even using it to ensure that all security protocols have been followed and meet your organization’s requirements and needs.
Are biometrics safe?
Like any other form of identification, biometrics are not safe from threat actors. While biometric security is supposed to remain unused to you, criminals can copy, mimic, or impersonate your biometrics to fool systems and get away with crimes. There is a lot of data infringement and identity theft, especially in organizations and social media sites where people’s data is stolen and used illegally. Social media offers hackers an excellent opportunity to take your data and manipulate it to fit their bills. Always have in mind that what you post is not safe, and people may use it to mimic your biometrics, breaching your security.
Some biometric systems can also malfunction or give incorrect responses like accepting a wrong biometric or rejecting correct biometric. This mainly happens where there is a wide range of users. They can provide the following results:
False-positive: This is when a biometrics database incorrectly matches a person to another person’s credentials. If an authorized person gets a false positive, your entire organization, particularly the individual whose credentials are used, is at risk.
False-negative: This happens when the database fails to recognize the authentic personnel and blocks their access. A false negative is dangerous to your organization as it could mean someone is taking over.
How can you protect biometric data?
If your organization intends to use biometrics as a method of multi-factor authentication, you must make sure that the information collected is handled with privacy according to the regulatory and legal requirements. We also recommend using biometrics and other forms of authentication methods to provide a more robust level of security. This way, you have a backup plan in case one process is compromised, and you will get the chance to access and protect your account and devices from being hacked. Unlike other traditional methods of identification, biometrics provide reliable security as they cannot be stolen, guessed, or used again. However, they can be mimicked, and that’s why a backup password will be required to strengthen the security.