Biometrics

Typically, authentication can happen in one of three ways:-

  1. the user knows a password/PIN
  2. the user has something like a token or card
  3. the user has a trait such a finger print or facial characteristics (biometric)

Interpol-biometric-1The third option, biometrics, are used to automatically identify a person or to verify that person’s identity by way of behavioral patterns or physiological characteristics. With this technology we can use hand or finger prints, facial features and even iris recognition. Variants of biometrics also allow for signature verification, keystroke impressions and keystroke dynamics (Podio & Dunn n.d)

The application of Biometrics is limited by the person’s mind and as such the technology is applied in diverse conditions globally. For Example:-

  • Time Clocks in attendance systems
  • Safes for commercial and home owner usage
  • Access controls for entrances in homes, businesses and cars
  • Security on laptop computers
  • Security within immigration at airports
  • Point of Sale Systems

The list of applications for the use of “biometrics” continues to grow as a greater need for security confronts the world at large.

Using Biometrics in contrast to other form of identification/verification has its unique advantages. Biometrics will identify me as me and you as you. No other identification/verification system can make such a claim. Smart cards, photo IDs, physical keys of all types can be lost, duplicated, left lying around/home or stolen; passwords and PINs can be forgotten, shared and observed over the shoulder. People abhor having to remember so many passwords and PINs and would prefer the ease of authentication/verification offered by biometrics.

Biometric authentication has gained acclaim as the most fool proof of all the identification/verification systems. The fact that it captures characteristics of the person makes it much more difficult to forge or spoof. Its usage and application has grown rapidly since the 1980s when it was used in very high end environments – main frame access. The rapid development in computer technology and the falling cost of equipment has now made it easier to deploy biometric technology even in laptops.

Yet for all its security and uniqueness biometrics is still not 100 percent secure. Biometric authentication comprises of three main phases:-

  • The biometric sample (the person)
  • The sensor
  • The biometric algorithm

An attack on any one of the above phases, compromises the security of biometric authentication. The attack on the sample may not be difficult as the perpetrator would have to capture the person and forcefully take the sample. However spoofing the sensor is not impossible as fake prints and IDs may be used to “trick” the sensor. It is known that sensitivity of the sensors is not standardized and hence some sensors have been known to pass fake prints and characteristics. (Drygajlo n.d)

Yes, biometrics will be used in more applications in the immediate and distant future. The greater sense of security, physically and psychologically, makes it a system to be welcomed by the market at large.

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