Biometrics: A World with No Keys or Passwords?

Biometrics: A World with No Keys or Passwords?

In the 21st century, the risk of improperly secured information is greater than ever.

No longer is one limited by the papers one can carry or photograph. Millions of pages of text can be stored on a single flash drive, and with access to the internet this data can be distributed easily for the world to see. This increased risk emphasizes the importance of security, but security is only as strong as its weakest link.

Securing access to both physical items and data is a challenge that both governmental and private organizations face. Passwords can be cracked and keys can be stolen; however, one’s physical characteristics are unique and are never lost. Organizations and governments are leveraging biological uniqueness by deploying biometric systems and products. India is using biometrics on a massive scale with a goal to collect fingerprint and iris data for all 1.3 billion of its citizens. Are these technologies the answer to improved security in the digital age?

Some of the biometric technologies available include thumbprint, iris, facial, vascular, and voice recognition systems. A biometric technology’s success in a given application depends on various factors, including cost and ease of use, but the two main metrics are False Acceptance (verifying an unauthorized person) and False Rejection (rejection of an authorized person) rates.

No technology available has a perfect zero percentage for both, so scientists and organizations continue to innovate:

Even with new technologies being developed all the time there will likely never be a single perfect solution. A combination of methods might be the answer; organizations could use two biometric technologies or one biometric system combined with a password.

Even with the optimal biometric security, all an unscrupulous person needs is for someone to leave a computer unlocked or a door open. 

Contributors

Harry Oppenheim | Harry is a Consulting Associate with experience in information technology, project management, and process improvement. He is currently supporting an emergency management project with a focus on communications and outreach. Harry received a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from The Johns Hopkins University and a Master of Engineering and Management from Case Western Reserve University.

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