Biometric Authentication Meaning

Biometrics

WHAT IS BIOMETRICS?

Biometrics definition

Biometrics are physical or behavioral human characteristics to that can be used to digitally identify a person to grant access to systems, devices or data.

Examples of these biometric identifiers are fingerprints, facial patterns, voice or typing cadence. Each of these identifiers is considered unique to the individual, and they may be used in combination to ensure greater accuracy of identification.

Biometrics are body measurements and calculations related to human characteristics.Biometrics has the potential to make authentication dramatically faster, easier and more secure than traditional passwords, but companies need to be careful about the biometric data they collect.

Because biometrics can provide a reasonable level of confidence in authenticating a person with less friction for the user, it has the potential to dramatically improve enterprise security. Computers and devices can unlock automatically when they detect the fingerprints of an approved user. Server room doors can swing open when they recognize the faces of trusted system administrators. Help desk systems might automatically pull up all relevant information when they recognize an employee’s voice on the support line.

Types of biometrics

A biometric identifier is one that is related to intrinsic human characteristics. They fall roughly into two categories: physical identifiers and behavioral identifiers. Physical identifiers are, for the most part, immutable and device independent:

  • Fingerprints: Fingerprint scanners have become ubiquitous in recent years due to their widespread deployment on smartphones. Any device that can be touched, such as a phone screen, computer mouse or touchpad, or a door panel, has the potential to become an easy and convenient fingerprint scanner. According to Spiceworks, fingerprint scanning is the most common type of biometric authentication in the enterprise, used by 57 percent of companies.
  • Photo and video: If a device is equipped with a camera, it can easily be used for authentication. Facial recognition and retinal scans are two common approaches.
  • Physiological recognition: Facial recognition is the second most common type of authentication, according to Spiceworks, in place at 14 percent of companies. Other image-based authentication methods include hand geometry recognition, used by 5 percent of companies, iris or retinal scanning, palm vein recognition, and ear recognition.
  • Voice: Voice-based digital assistants and telephone-based service portals are already using voice recognition to identify users and authenticate customers. According to Spiceworks, 2 percent of companies use voice recognition for authentication within the enterprise.
  • Signature: Digital signature scanners are already in widespread use at retail checkouts and in banks and are a good choice for situations where users and customers are already expecting to have to sign their names.
  • DNA: Today, DNA scans are used primarily in law enforcement to identify suspects — and in the movies. In practice, DNA sequencing has been too slow for widespread use. This is starting to change. Last year, a $1,000 scanner hit the market that can do a DNA match in minutes — and prices are likely to keep dropping.
  • Typing patterns: Everybody has a different typing style. The speed at which they type, the length of time it takes to go from one letter to another, the degree of impact on the keyboard.
  • Physical movements: The way that someone walks is unique to an individual and can be used to authenticate employees in a building, or as a secondary layer of authentication for particularly sensitive locations.
  • Navigation patterns: Mouse movements and finger movements on trackpads or touch-sensitive screens are unique to individuals and relatively easy to detect with software, no additional hardware required.
  • Engagement patterns: We all interact with technology in different ways. How we open and use apps, how low we allow our battery to get, the locations and times of day we’re most likely to use our devices, the way we navigate websites, how we tilt our phones when we hold them, or even how often we check our social media accounts are all potentially unique behavioral characteristics. These behavior patterns can be used to distinguish people from bots, until the bots get better at imitating humans. And they can also be used in combination with other authentication methods, or, if the technology improves enough, as standalone security measures.

Biometric authentication is used in computer science as a form of identification and access control. It is also used to identify individuals in groups that are under surveillance.

Biometrics authentication and identification

Biometrics allows a person to be identified and authenticated based on recognizable and verifiable data,  unique and specific. 

Biometric authentication

Biometric authentication compares data for the person’s characteristics to that person’s biometric “template” to determine resemblance. 

  • The reference model is first stored. 
  • The data stored is then compared to the person’s biometric data to be authenticated. 

In this mode, the question is: “Are you indeed, Mr or Mrs. X?“​

Biometric identification

Biometric identification consists of determining the identity of a person. 

  • The aim is to capture an item of biometric data from this person. It can be a photo of their face, a record of their voice, or an image of their fingerprint. 
  • This data is then compared to the biometric data of several other persons kept in a database. 

In this mode, the question ​is a simple one: “Who are you?

To know more about our biometric technology and solutions, visit our product pages.

Biometrics: trends

Faced with document fraud and identity theft, terrorism and cybercrime, international regulation changes, new biometric security solutions are being implemented.Biometrics can be defined as the most practical means of identifying and authenticating individuals in a reliable and fast way through unique biological characteristics.

Of course, increased public acceptance, massive accuracy gains, a rich offer, and falling prices of sensors, IP cameras, and software make it all the easier to install biometric systems.

Today, many applications make use of this technology. 

IMPORTANCE OF BIOMETRICS AUTHENTICATION

Advantages of biometric authentication

Biometric authentication and its uses in modern-day tech and digital applications has a number of advantages:

  1. High security and assurance – Biometric identification provides the answers to “something a person has and is” and helps verify identity
  2. User Experience – Convenient and fast
  3. Non-transferrable – Everyone has access to a unique set of biometrics
  4. Spoof-proof – Biometrics are hard to fake or steal

High security and assurance 

Biometrics provide increased levels of assurance to providers that a person is real by verifying a tangible, real-world trait as both something the user has and something the user is. Most user’s passwords and PINs and personal identifying information have likely been compromised with a data breach, meaning, billions of accounts can be accessed by fraudsters who retain the answers to traditional authentication methods. Introducing biometric authentication into the process adds in a road-block for fraudsters that only a real, authorized user can circumnavigate – though a fraudster may know a person uses their dog’s name and some lucky numbers for most of their online accounts, they can’t use their fingerprint to unlock an account if they can’t provide it on the spot. Additionally, biometrics can only be provided by living, breathing people – at this point in time, a robot would have a hard-time passing an iris scan.

User experience is convenient and fast

While the internal processes for biometric authentication is technical, from a user’s point of view it’s incredibly easy and quick. Placing a finger on a scanner and unlocking an account in seconds is faster than typing out a long password that has multiple special characters. In addition, forgetting a password is a common mistake of most users. The chances of you forgetting your own biometrics? Never!

Non-transferable 

Biometric authentication requires its input is present upon authorization. You can’t transfer or share a physical biometric digitally – the only way to utilize most biometric authentication systems is with a physical application.

Near spoof-proof

Biometrics like face patterns, fingerprints, iris scanning, and others are near-impossible to replicate with current technology. There’s a one in 64 billion chance that your fingerprint will match up exactly with someone else’s[1]. Said a different way, you have a better chance winning the lottery than having the same fingerprint as a hacker trying to get into your account that’s secured by biometrics. 

Disadvantages of biometric authentication

Despite increased security, efficiency, and convenience, biometric authentication and its uses in modern-day tech and digital applications also has disadvantages:

  1. Costs – Significant investment needed in biometrics for security
  2. Data breaches – Biometric databases can still be hacked
  3. Tracking and data – Biometric devices like facial recognition systems can limit privacy for users
  4. Bias – Machine learning and algorithms must be very advanced to minimize biometric demographic bias
  5. False positives and inaccuracy – False rejects and false accepts can still occur preventing select users from accessing systems

Costs

It’s no surprise that a more advanced security system would require significant investments and costs to implement. In a 2018 survey by Spiceworks, 67 percent of IT professionals cite cost as” the biggest reason for not adopting biometric authentication.” Transitioning to a biometrics authentication wouldn’t be the only thing a company would have to pay for, with 47% of the surveyed stating a need to upgrade current systems in order to support a shift to biometric authentication on their devices[2].

Data breaches

Businesses and governments that collect and store users’ personal data are under constant threat from hackers. Because biometric data is irreplaceable, organizations need to treat sensitive biometric data with increased security and caution – something that’s expensive and technically difficult in order to stay ahead of fraud advancements. If a password or pin is compromised, there’s always the possibility of changing it. The same can’t be said for a person’s physiological or behavioral biometrics. 

Tracking and data

As the world increases its use of biometric authentication systems like facial recognition technology and other biometric security measures, privacy of users needs to be taken into consideration. When biometrics are converted into data and stored, particularly in places or countries that have large surveillance measures, a user runs the risk of leaving a permanent digital record that can be potentially tracked by nefarious actors. In many instances, organizations and governments have used facial recognition software to track and identify people with scary accuracy that significantly inhibits privacy[3]. As surveillance increases, biometric data can become a permanent digital tag that can be used to track someone, both with and without their knowledge.

Bias

Minimizing Demographic Bias In Biometrics: while verifying applicants’ identities during digital onboarding is a challenge for providers. Poor implementation of technology or deliberate misuse can result in discrimination and exclusion. Without a proven, document-centric identity proofing solution, cross-demographic performance can be unreliable and limit customer access to essentials like credit and the expanding range of digital services. 

False positives and inaccuracy

Most common biometric authentication methods rely on partial information to authenticate a user’s identity. For example, a mobile biometric device will scan an entire fingerprint during the enrollment phase, and convert it into data. However, future biometric authentication of the fingerprint will only use parts of the prints to verify identity so it’s faster and quicker. In 2018, a research team from New York University created an Artificial Intelligence platform that was able to fraudulently crack fingerprint authentication at a success rate of 20% by matching similarities of partial prints to the full biometric data.

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