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Biometrics: To Use or Not to Use?!

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According to a Scalar Security Study Report, 81% of respondents admit that cyberattacks are becoming more and more severe, and 72% of respondents admits that they are becoming more sophisticated. With cyberattacks becoming so severe that they are practically shutting down countries (Petrwrap), government agencies and public service organizations have turned to emerging technologies for added security. While biometrics offer a more sophisticated form of authentication, it is not foolproof.

Biometrics in a security context, refers to using human characteristics as a form of authentication. The most common biometric nowadays are cell phones that require fingerprints to unlock them. Biometrics can also include: retina or iris scans, fingerprints, palm veins, face recognition, DNA, palm print, etc. Used as the sole method of authentication, you face the increased risk of getting hacked. However, using it in conjunction with another form of authentication increases the effectiveness of this security measure. This would then be referred to as multi-factor authentication.

Theoretically, you could use infinite factors for authentication, but most organizations use a maximum of two or three factors. There are three types of authentication: knowledge factors (something they know), inherence/biometrics factors (something they are), and possession factors (something they have). Knowledge factors include: passwords, passcodes, PINs, secret questions, etc. Possession factors refers to tokens generated for authentication.

Myth: Emerging technologies are safer because they’re new. FALSE

Fact: Just because something is new, it doesn’t mean that it cannot have vulnerabilities. You’re not alone in thinking this. According to Biometric Update, 68% of respondents from border agencies expect to see increased protection benefits from emerging technologies. New technology is just as likely to have bugs and vulnerabilities built in to the coding. Never underestimate your opponent. Even if your login is your fingerprint – something that is completely unique to you, the print itself can still be replicated. It DOES NOT guarantee security.

According to Biometric Update: “The industry sector citing the highest adoption rate of biometric technologies is public safety (51%), followed by pension and social security agencies (48%) and border agencies (36%).” They continue to elaborate that biometrics are becoming higher demand, where 65% of respondents are piloting, implementing or researching the use of biometrics and identity analytics.

The Guardian reported (back in 2014) that a hacker was able to fake a German Minister’s fingerprints, just by using photos of her hands. After Ursula von der Leyen gave a speech, a hacker, by the name of Jan Krissler, used photos from the press conference to replicate her fingerprint. From now on, don’t be surprised if you see politicians giving speeches while wearing gloves!

As the ACLU’s Jay Stanley told the Washington Post, “Biometrics are not secrets… Ideally, they’re unique to each individual, but that’s not the same thing as being a secret.”

While no solution is foolproof where hackers are concerned, a multi-factor means of authentication can certainly make breaching your network more difficult. 

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