Due to the popularity of smartphones, the term biometric authentication has become much more common in our society within the past few years. But what is biometric authentication? I will explain what is biometric authentication and how it works.
What Is Biometric Authentication?
Biometric authentication is a type of security that’s used to match and measure the biometric features of a user to verify that a person who’s trying to access a particular device is authorized to do so.
The biometric features that are measured in biometric authentication are biological and physical traits that are unique to an individual person which can be quickly and easily detected to authorize features that are saved in a database.
When the biometric features of a person who’s trying to gain access to a device match the features of an approved user, access to the device will be granted.
Biometric authentication is also used in physical locations that control access points such as gates and doors.
Today, the most common types of biometric authentication are being built into household devices, primarily smartphones, and computers.
However, biometric authentication technologies are also being used by private corporations and governments in secure locations, such as ports of entry when crossing borders, airports, and military bases.
Types Of Biometric Authentication:
Fingerprint scanners have become immensely popular in recent years due to the popularity of smartphones.
Fingerprint scanners record the unique patterns of ridges and swirls that make an individual’s fingerprint unique.
At the moment fingerprint scanning is the most common type of biometric authentication that’s used by consumers.
Even though the consumer-grade versions such as the ones that are used in our smartphones have the potential for false positives.
However, there are newer versions of fingerprint scanning which go far beyond the ridges and swirls.
These fingerprint scanners go below the skin to evaluate the vascular patterns in a person’s finger, these fingerprint scanners are more reliable.
Facial recognition technology works by matching a number of different measurements from an approved face to the face of a person who’s trying to gain access.
If an adequate number of measurements from a person matches the approved face, access will be granted.
Facial recognition has been added to a number of smartphones that are currently on the market.
This feature works better on some smartphones than it does on others but in general, it’s not consistent when comparing faces while viewed from different angles. Or when trying to identify the differences between two people who look alike.
Voice recognition measures the vocal characteristics to distinguish between one person to another.
Voice recognition combines a number of data points to create a voiceprint profile to compare to other voiceprint profiles in a database.
This feature does not rely on listening to a person’s voice, instead, its main focus is to examine and measure the speaker’s mouth and throat for the configuration of specific shapes and sound qualities.
This method of voice recognition avoids the security issues that may be caused by someone attempting to imitate or disguise their voice to sound like someone else.
Or by common conditions such as illness or time of day that have the potential to change the audio qualities of a voice to the human ear.
The words spoken by a person to access a voice-protected device is standardized, so it acts as a password when making the comparison of the approved voiceprints to the user’s unique voiceprint.
This method of voice recognition also prevents different ways that a person may use to bypass a voiceprint comparison, such as recording an authorized user who’s saying something unrelated.
There are two different types of eye scanners which include iris recognition and retina scanners.
Retina scanners project a bright light to the eye that makes visible blood vessel patterns that can be read by the scanner and compared to approved patterns that are saved in a database.
Iris scanners function in a similar manner, however, they look for unique patterns in the colored ring around the pupil of the eye.
Both types of eye scanners mentioned above are great authentication options. However, they are not 100% accurate.
For example, if a person is wearing glasses or contact lenses this may cause some problems.
Some eye scanners have also been tricked with photographs, but it’s likely that this will become less effective as technology evolves and eye scanners become more sophisticated.
Other Uses For Biometric Authentication:
Biometric authentication can be used as a form of multi-factor authentication (MFA) or two-factor authentication.
This can be accomplished by combining multiple biometric patterns or by using biometric authentication in conjunction with a traditional password.
Biometric authentication is more secure when it’s used in conjunction with a traditional password.
Is Your Biometric Authentication Data Secure?
The security of your biometric authentication data is extremely important, this is more important than the security of passwords because passwords can be easily changed at any time.
However, a retina scan or fingerprint is permanent, if this information gets into the wrong hands it could potentially put users at permanent risk while creating some serious legal problems for the company that lost the data.
CEO and co-founder of ZL Technologies Kon Leong, made the following statement “In the event of a breach, it creates a Herculean challenge because physical attributions such as fingerprints cannot be replaced,”.
Leong also stated, “Biometric data in the hands of a corrupt entity, perhaps a government, carries very frightening but real implications as well”.
Every company is responsible for its own security and companies that do not keep the credentials of their customers on file have some legal protection in the event of a data breach.
For example, retailers can avoid large compliance costs by keeping their systems out of scope.
A customer’s payment information is encrypted at the payment terminal and it goes straight to a payment processor.
The company that the customer paid will not have the data of the card that was used on their servers, this reduces potential security risks as well as agreement implications.
Companies that must collect and store data on their own servers must use the best-practice security measures to keep the data safe.
This includes encryption, encryption for data at rest as well as the data in transit. There are new technologies available for runtime encryption.
This is great because it keeps the data encrypted even when it’s being used. Encryption is extremely secure but it’s not 100% foolproof.
For example, if the users or applications that are authorized to access the secure data are compromised there’s a potential for data to be stolen.
Nevertheless, there are two methods that companies can use to avoid keeping encrypted authentication data on their servers.
Local Authentication Or Device-Based Authentication:
A great example of a local authentication device is the hardware security module in a smartphone.
User information such as a facial image or a fingerprint scan, are stored inside the module.
When authentication is needed, the biometric data is collected by the fingerprint reader or camera and it’s sent to the module where it’s compared to the original.
The module will let the phone know whether or not the information received is a match to the information that’s stored.
With this method, the actual biometric data will never be accessible by any system or software outside the module, including the operating system of the phone.
On an iPhone, this is referred to as the secure enclave and it’s available on every iPhone with the Apple A7 chip or newer.
The first phone to feature this technology was the iPhone 5S which was released in 2013. A similar type of technology is available on Android phones.
Samsung rolled out the ARM TrustZone trusted execution environment when the Samsung Galaxy S3 was released.
For example, PayPal can use the biometric scanner on a phone for authentication without PayPal actually having to see the data.
There are a number of password management apps and banking apps that use this method of authentication.
Companies also have the ability to use smartphone biometric readers whenever their customers or users have access to smartphones.
This can be done without the company having to collect and store the biometric data on their own servers.
There is a similar type of technology that’s available for other devices such as fingerprint scanners for PCs, smart door locks, or smart cards.
Now You Know What Is Biometric Authentication:
Now you know what is biometric authentication, if you have any comments or questions about any of this information, please feel free to share them in the comment section below.