Passwords and PINs are not very convenient, nor are they always secure. The primary reason for the increase in data and security breaches are weak or compromised passwords. To help us remember our passwords and PINs, we use the same password over and over, or we write them down on sticky notes, or for the truly organized, they make spreadsheets with all their many account passwords and PINs. All of these things make life more difficult for us while making cybercrime much easier for criminals.
Because of those security breaches, a stronger form of user authentication is needed to keep our identities and privacy secure and safe. Biometrics is an excellent solution to this issue.
Biometrics used as identification mechanisms in companies all over the world is gaining a firmer foothold in the security industry. Biometrics helps to verify and identify individuals based on their unique behavioral or physiological characteristics, such as irises and fingerprints.
Both fingerprints and irises are unique to each individual and are virtually impossible to replicate or steal. Therefore, the installation of biometric modes such as fingerprint and iris scanning will help to end data and security breaches. With the use of biometrics, consumers will no longer need to come up with and memorize complex passwords for each of their online accounts. Instead, their biometric now becomes their password.
Biometrics are now being used by law enforcement agencies and experts alike primarily to fight cyber-crimes. Once the user enrolls in the biometric system, there’s only a digital representation of the biometric sample that gets stored as a template.
A biometric algorithm selects the distinctive characteristics of each fingerprint, encrypts this data, and saves it as a template. The original image can not be reconstructed or copied in any way because it is a one-way algorithm. Due to this level of security, biometrics provide the highest level of privacy and ensures the user’s fingerprints will not get used for anything other than identification purposes.
Biometrics are less vulnerable to fraud and hacking by identifying individuals with a much higher accuracy rate compared to that of passwords. Furthermore, biometrics can not be shared, forgotten, or transferred, whereas passwords can.
Online banking, in particular, has become extremely vulnerable to hacking. Mike Wood, a director at IT firm Unisys points out, “Banks have been overly reliant on PINs and passwords since mainframes first came in, in the 1950s. Banks then moved to PINs and ‘memorable’ information. Unfortunately, that information is often instantly forgettable, and people can’t recall it when they need to. It is flawed.” However, many banks have successfully replaced the ‘memorable’ information with biometrics.
The FBI has developed the Next Generation Identification (NGI) system to improve identification and utilize new technologies. The NGI system gives the criminal justice community access to the world’s most active and most extensive electronic treasury of criminal history and biometric information.
At the Department of Homeland Security, biometrics are used to identify and block illegal entry into the U.S. They also give and manage proper immigration benefits, check credentials as well as aid legitimate trade and travel, enforce federal laws, and enable verification for visa applications to the U.S.
The biometrics field has advanced over the past several years, to the point where new biometric tools have been added to the standard fingerprint, iris, DNA, and facial recognition. These new tools include palm and finger vein readers, systems that read heartbeat and breath sounds, advanced voice recognition, and even behavioral biometrics, such as the way we type and write.
From 2018 to 2022, the market for iris and signature recognition technologies are expected to amount to 2.6 billion U.S. dollars, making it one of the most valuable technologies in the biometric system market. In the United States, around 40 percent of the biometric technology applications studied used fingerprint readers, while another 15 percent used facial recognition technology.
According to The New York Times, with the help of American academics and businesses, authorities in China are attempting to create facial images from DNA profiles using the data obtained from the mass DNA collection efforts in Xinjiang.
The biometrics systems are not perfect yet. For one, it’s time-consuming to capture the user’s biometric information and confirm their identity. It is also costly to do so. One issue that has surfaced is the fingerprint scanners don’t always recognize your prints if your hands have been sweating. Another problem is background noise interfering with voice recognition.
Despite certain issues, the global biometric systems made around 21.8 billion U.S. dollars in 2018, while mobile biometric technologies made just over 20 billion. The market is expected to increase by another 10 billion by 2022. The future will see an increase in the use of biometrics in the consumer’s everyday life, increasing the safety and security of the consumer’s private information and identification.