Believe it or not, we are now living in a world where passwords are no longer enough. It’s either hackers find a way to steal user credentials or the companies that we rely on to protect our data accidentally leave their databases open for the world to see. Cybercrime methods continue to evolve and become more sophisticated, and cybersecurity has to keep up. Biometric technology might be a solution to this end.
What is Biometrics?
Biometrics refers to the “metrics” or measurements related to the human body. In 1982, when Kirk of “Star Trek” used a retina scan to gain access to Project Genesis, he was using biometrics. In “Back to the Future II” (1989), McFly’s home had a fingerprint scanner instead of a doorknob. The McFlys used their fingerprints to unlock doors. See, biometrics and security somehow go hand in hand, even in movies.
These films may have been futuristic at the time they were released, but biometric technology is not new. In fact, the first recorded use of biometrics as an identification method was in the 1800s in Paris, France. Measurements of specific body parts allowed the authorities to identify criminals.
The method paved the way to fingerprinting in the 1880s, but it was in the 1960s when biometric technology advancements flourished, beginning with a semi-automated facial recognition system.
Biometrics and Security
Biometric technology primarily helps in user authentication. Back in the early days, it was so expensive that only select government agencies and large corporations could afford them. However, it has become commercially available in recent years.
Organizations have realized the importance of integrating biometric technology into their cybersecurity programs to prevent costly data breaches. And with 3.5 billion mobile users around the world, there is definitely a huge demand for more secure online access. As a result, most mobile devices and applications that we use today utilize biometrics as a security feature.
Biometric technology is currently the most reliable authentication method in mobile banking, online shopping, unlocking mobile devices, and even online voting. These areas apply biometric technology in the ways discussed in more detail below.
1. Fingerprint Recognition
Pantech, a South Korean mobile phone manufacturer, was the first to integrate a fingerprint scanner in its GI 100 mobile phone. It used the fingerprint technology developed by AuthenTec, a mobile security company acquired by Apple in 2012. Today, almost all mobile devices can be unlocked using their owners’ fingerprints.
2. Voice Recognition
When you call a customer service hotline, agents have to ask several security questions that take a lot of your time. And then there are times when you can’t remember the answer to a particular question (e.g., What were the last four digits of your childhood telephone number?).
Voice recognition provides a faster way for both the caller and the agent to authenticate the genuineness of the account holder. The technology is also more reliable as it scans voiceprints, which are apparently unique to each person. So while the answers to security questions are prone to theft, only you will be able to use your voiceprint.
3. Facial Recognition
The process of using facial recognition to unlock mobile devices or access online accounts is simple. First, you must have an image saved on the mobile device or your company’s database. Every time you unlock your device or log in to your account, the camera scans your face and compares it with the saved image. Only when the two faces match is access granted.
4. Iris Recognition
Like voiceprints, a person’s iris has a pattern that is unique to him or her. The process is the same with facial recognition in that your iris pattern is compared to a saved image of your iris to determine if they match.
Advances in biometric technology have been quite impressive. From seeing them only in movies before, we can now use them in real life today as we continue to look for ways to protect our data and privacy. Biometric technology is a great way to improve cybersecurity. Hopefully, experts will continue exploring its applications to make sure that cybercriminals can’t break into accounts and devices.