Biometric verification becoming common

Authentication by biometric verification is becoming increasingly common in corporate and public security systems, consumer electronics, and point-of-sale applications. In addition to security, the driving force behind biometric verification has been convenience, as there are no passwords to remember or security tokens to carry. Measuring someone’s gait doesn’t even require a contact with the person.

Biometric devices, such as fingerprint readers, consist of:

  • A reader or scanning device.
  • Software that converts the scanned information into digital form and compares match points.
  • A database that stores the biometric data for comparison.

Accuracy of biometrics

The accuracy and cost of readers has until recently been a limiting factor in the adoption of biometric authentication solutions but the presence of high quality cameras, microphones, and fingerprint readers in many of today’s mobile devices means biometrics is likely to become a considerably more common method of authenticating users, particularly as the new FIDO specification means that two-factor authentication using biometrics is finally becoming cost effective and in a position to be rolled out to the consumer market.

The quality of biometric readers is improving all the time, but they can still produce false negatives and false positives. One problem with fingerprints is that people inadvertently leave their fingerprints on many surfaces they touch, and it’s fairly easy to copy them and create a replica in silicone. People also leave DNA everywhere they go and someone’s voice is also easily captured. Dynamic biometrics like gestures and facial expressions can change, but they can be captured by HD cameras and copied. Also, whatever biometric is being measured, if the measurement data is exposed at any point during the authentication process, there is always the possibility it can be intercepted. This is a big problem, as people can’t change their physical attributes as they can a password. While limitations in biometric authentication schemes are real, biometrics is a great improvement over passwords as a means of authenticating an individual.