Understanding Biometrics: Convenient And Safe?

Understanding Biometrics: Convenient And Safe?

Biometrics isn’t anything new for many users. It has become standard for people to unlock their smartphones via fingerprints or face scans. Thus, a complex technology that produces metrics concerning human features is quickly replacing the traditional password-based security systems. Similar approaches have been taken in other fields, mostly related to verifying people’s identities and granting access. However, biometrics also play a key role in identifying users, such as recognizing your face and finding out your identity.

Biometric systems have come to aid law enforcement agencies by facilitating accurate identity verification and nailing criminals. The identifiers based on biometrics add access control to the secure digital and physical environments. However, the biggest concern is biometric data theft, leading to severe consequences in victims’ lives.

Biometrics and its uses

In digital parlance, biometrics refers to the measurements of our physical characteristics. These often include various physiological traits like eyes, fingerprints, faces and can involve behavioral factors. Biometric data might seem like a foolproof resource for authentication. Due to its uniqueness, attempts to spoof it are typically considered highly difficult or nearly impossible.

We’re using biometrics in our daily lives. Every time we use a fingerprint to unlock our phone or get weather updates from Siri by using our voice, this ingenious technology comes into use. There’s a biometric attendance system installed on the door in most of the offices where we use our eyes or fingerprint to get access to our offices. In addition to access management and communication, there’re several other uses of biometrics.

Law enforcement agencies use biometrics to collect fingerprints, DNA, or voice samples to analyze a suspect’s role in the crime. Wellness exams use biometrics wherein genetic models and retinal scans are collected for analysis. Even your handwriting serves as a biometric data type, often used by financial institutions and banks to detect financial fraud.

What are the different types of biometric data?

  • Fingerprint Scanning. Our fingers comprise of valleys and ridges, forming a unique pattern captured and used by security applications. 
  • Iris Recognition.This metric reflects the unique patterns of an individual’s iris. The colorful zone around the pupil is unique for every individual, which can be mapped and used by various security applications.
  • Face Recognition.This metric measures the unique facial patterns of an individual and analyzes the facial contours.
  • Voice Recognition. The sound waves produced by every human are unique and biometrics devices can capture analyze them for identifying the individual. Smart speakers such as Alexa use this technology to recognize the voices of different users.  
  • Behavior Characteristics.The way you operate your PC, keystrokes, handwriting, and every other move creates your interaction with the computerized system. Now, all these metrics can be used to form a data type called behavioral characteristics.  
  • Hand Geometry. The unique features of an individual’s hand like thickness, width, length, and even the surface is measured to form a biometric data set.

How do biometrics work?

The collection of biometric information through specific devices is carried out at various places, including your workplace. Information such as fingerprint or facial recognition data is stored on a central server that can be accessed later. From fingerprints to eye scanning, there are multiple biometrics in use for securing physical and digital environments.

Components of a biometric system usually include:

  • Sensors. This device collects and reads biometric information as and when needed.
  • Computer. You need a computer to store the collected information in a database. In some cases, this might be replaced by a database storing biometrics.
  • Software. It acts as a bridge between the computer and sensors.

Security and privacy concerns over biometric data

As more and more people start to question the current conditions for their privacy, it is important to do everything in your power to stay safe. Privacy violations and risks in the digital world might be nothing new, and more users turn to privacy-boosting options. For instance, they might use more private browsers such as Brave or block third-party cookies to prevent tracking. Some take an even bigger step and install a VPN, allowing them to browse more anonymously. Virtual Private Networks prevent IP-based tracking and encrypt your web traffic. A combination of these options lets you enjoy a more private digital life. However, similar privacy violations occur offline as well.

One of the main concerns is that the technology behind biometric data threatens our privacy even further. Facial recognition might occur without your consent or knowledge via cameras on the street. Thus, people insist that biometric identification would be heavily regulated and performed with attention to transparency.

Hacking is another major concern when it comes to whether biometric data is safe. After all, we cannot change out physical features on demand (as opposed to passwords). Biometric information might be stored in databases instead of your device.We all know that no server in the world is completely immune to hacking. High-value data like fingerprint or iris scans can be particularly attractive to hackers. Thus, with the growing use of biometrics, more and more such data would be stored in multiple servers across multiple locations. Ultimately, not all will be secure and might suffer attacks leading to biometric data leaks. Thus, biometrics need to be encrypted to mitigate such risks.