Should You Solve Password Problems with Biometric Security?
Passwords are problems. Employees reuse the same password for every application, write them down because they can’t remember them, and share them with other employees to try to get work done. Two-factor authentication, which typically adds a one-time security code to the login process, adds security but is also inconvenient and prevents users from logging in if they don’t have their phone handy to receive that one-time code.
Biometric security avoids these problems by eliminating the need for passwords and passcodes. Instead of being authenticated by knowing a password and carrying a specific phone or smartcard, users are recognized by a physical or behavioral characteristic, such as fingerprints, iris or retinal patterns, or handwriting or voice patterns.
Increased Use of Biometric Security
Biometrics are increasingly used today. While the initial usage was primarily in government, biometrics are today found in consumer devices, including Touch ID for using fingerprints to unlock the iPhone. Juniper Research forecasts 770 million biometric applications will be downloaded each year by 2019.
For companies that want to use biometrics as a means of security, this requires devices to read or scan the finger, retina, or other personal characteristic; software to take the scan and compare to a reference image; and a database storing the authorized users’ information.
Benefits of Biometric Security
Biometrics offer security benefits in addition to the convenience of not needing to remember passwords or carry security tokens. Users can’t accidentally expose their credentials or forget to bring them along.
Because biometric information is hard to use without having the “owner” present, there’s additional verification that the access is by the authorized person. This is particularly true if biometrics are used in addition to passwords, as a second-level authentication factor.
Challenges of Biometric Security
Despite the benefits, there are also challenges with biometrics. The devices can produce incorrect readings. It’s also possible to forge some credentials; researchers have been able to fool fingerprint readers, and voice analyzers can be fooled by recordings. Using these devices also creates difficulties if the person’s characteristics change, such as by having a cut on their finger or a rasping voice due to a sore throat.
These systems can also feel intrusive and uncomfortable for end users, who can associate collecting fingerprints with law enforcement. Unlike passwords, which are easily changed if they are revealed, users can’t change their fingerprints. There needs to be a high level of security around the database storing users’ biometric credentials in order to maintain access security and reassure users their privacy is protected.
Deploying the systems can also be expensive; not only does the hardware need to be deployed, the data needs to be individually collected from each authorized user. Most companies that want to use biometrics should identify assets that need this level of security rather than applying it to everything.
Choose Appropriate Security Technology
Prescient Solutions team includes certified security experts who can help you evaluate your systems and choose the appropriate security measures, including firewalls, intrusion detection systems, data loss prevention software, and other controls. Contact us to learn more about our computer security services.
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