Biometric identification is moving from the realm of high -tech movie scenes to everyday use. The science is already changing physical and cyber security.
Not that long ago, we didn’t think much about biometrics unless we were talking about criminals getting fingerprinted, or people unlocking doors with their eyes in sci-fi movies.
Well, it’s turning out the sci-fi applications might not be so far from the truth, and biometrics are becoming a big part of our everyday security.
Behavioural Biometrics Moving Into the Digital Space
Behavioural biometrics are nothing new, but their potential for digital security still hasn’t been fully tapped. Put simply, behavioural biometrics are methods of authentication based on behaviour — what you do, versus your physical characteristics. The earliest form of these was the signature.
Digital signatures certainly aren’t new, but as authentication methods become more powerful, e-signatures are becoming more popular. Combining other methods of identity verification with a signature has the potential to cut down on fraud and identity theft by adding more layers of security to the biometric.
Digital signatures are just the tip of the iceberg, however. Have you ever had Google ask you to prove you’re not a bot because of a strange sign-in or search activity? Have you gone travelling and forget to tell your credit card company, and have your card frozen? These are all forms of behavioural biometrics, and as the technology to recognize patterns in behaviour improves, they’ll be used to ever greater effect in security.
Over the past few decades research has been ramping up about data mining and pattern recognition, which is making the automated processes that detect unusual behaviour more robust and accurate. Proving that you are who you say you are when conducting unusual activities is one step on the path to much greater data security. If we get it right, behaviour biometrics have the potential to provide better security than logins, passwords, and other “input” methods of authentication. Passively monitoring a user’s behaviour will give machine-learning tools clues as to when fraud might be taking place.
Physical Biometrics as Passwords and Keys
Facial recognition technology is already here. It’s being marketed as the way of the future for unlocking phones, but there’s a lot more potential in facial recognition. Phones are just the start. Anything with a camera in it, or anything you could put a camera into, could be secured with facial recognition technology.
The New Jersey Institute of Technology writes about the potential for facial recognition not just in mobile and smart devices, but as a replacement for traditional locks. The fingerprint and keypad combination is one option they present as more secure than physical keys.
Do Biometrics Have Weak Links?
The security potential for biometrics is huge. Anything from banking transactions to workplace sign-ins can be made more secure with biometrics.
Internet users, especially people who use public wi-fi services and connect their devices to IoT (internet of things) networks are particularly vulnerable to hacks. Users open themselves up to this vulnerability all the time, and many of them do it on business accounts and devices. Entrepreneurs and business people are always looking for ways to cut down on travel time, and network providers are happy to accommodate them with on the go services, even on airplanes. Unsecured public networks, however, like those found on airplanes and in coffee shops, expose all the devices connected to them to risk.
In itself, this vulnerability isn’t something that biometrics can solve alone. Biometrics can, however, significantly reduce the damage caused when someone hacks your device and scrapes your logins, or worse yet takes advantage of the password autofills so many people use. Requiring an additional biometric step to log in, or recognizing unusual behaviour has the potential to reduce or eliminate the damage.
As we’ve already seen, however, even the best security can be exploited when it interacts with other systems. Blockchain technology created a completely secure way of transacting money, but cryptocurrency exchanges are vulnerable to intrusion. There is, unfortunately, always a weak link.
This unavoidable security issue will plague experts as they try to prevent hackers from interfering with the systems that interact with biometric recognition.
Devin is a freelance writer from Daly City, CA. He writes about small business marketing and SEO. On his downtime, he enjoys experimenting with car modifications and collecting vinyl records. He also enjoys researching and writing about auto history. If you want to contact Devin, message him at his (rarely used!) Twitter account: @DevMorrissey .