What is Biometric Authentication?
Biometric authentication refers to the process of using unique biological characteristics such as the face, fingerprints and voice patterns, to authorize an individual for access to a personal account, app, device or other digital assets.
Other less popularly used personal traits for authentication include palm veins, palm print, DNA, hand geometry and odour/scent. Research is opening up ways for new methods of biometric verifications through ear shape or facial thermography.
A biometric authentication system compares biometric measurements and behavioral traits to a database containing authentic, stored data to recognize individuals. This is usually an automated process and is extremely useful in verifying identities, confirming that someone is who they say they are.
Liveness detection is also an integral part of the authentication process, determining whether a real-life person is present at the time of authentication and that a captured image is not from a still or flat image.
As an extremely secure way of identifying users, biometrics are becoming a popular method, expected to replace more traditional authentication and security methods such as password-based, knowledge-based or multi-factor authentication. Due to high vulnerability to security lapses, the safety of such methods are easily compromised either intentionally or unintentionally.
Gartner predicts that identity verification systems will replace traditional authentication platforms in more than half of all global enterprises by 2023.
Popular Methods of Biometric Authentication
- Facial biometric authentication
- Fingerprint and Iris Scanning
- Voice Recognition
- Behavioral Characteristics
Advantages of Biometric Authentication
Biometric authentication makes it possible for online businesses to verify and authenticate users for account logins, financial transactions, and other use cases.
Ease of Use and Accuracy
The foremost benefit of using biometric authentication is convenience. It is a non-intrusive, one-step process that takes limited processing time. Users do not want to go through complex logins and verification procedures every time an account or device needs to be accessed.
Using biometrics instead of lengthy passwords leads to better user experience and smooth onboarding. For instance, an iris scan or fingerprint scan takes less time to enter and be accepted especially by smartphones. For voice recognition, ultrasound scanners are expected to become common in the near future as well.
This convenience factor leads to the possibility of building security systems that can authenticate people at scale. User-friendly systems onboard customers easily, without having to educate or train them, and are increasingly available in most hand-held devices.
Identity verification through the use of biometrics also increases chances of accuracy. High security threats and compliance requirements urge businesses to explore and install robust authentication systems with the ability to minimise failure rates.
Safety and Privacy
Threats such as phishing and social engineering have become common as companies move towards rapid digitization. It becomes highly relevant, therefore, for companies to be able to better manage identity infrastructure for compliance in areas of security and privacy.
Safeguarding computers, online transactions, website portals, emails and other digital processes is of utmost importance. Currently, due to high risk of cybercrimes, digital identity theft and account takeover fraud, identifying users is becoming a serious challenge for most businesses.
Authentication using biometric measurements lowers associated risks of cyber breaches, simply because of the difficulty to forge biological characteristics such as fingerprints and iris scans. Imposters are especially reluctant to try to fool face-based authentication protocols, making fraud detection and fake attempts at logins easy to catch.
Traditional identity screening methods have proven to be less successful in achieving accurate and reliable results. Login details, address confirmations and even social security numbers cannot confirm that a person is who they say they are. Digital identity theft and other cyber breaches have increased the possibility of having all such personal information stolen.
Biometric authentication can solve this problem by opening up ways of online verifications that are much more reliable and accurate. Duplication of unique body traits such as fingerprints is less likely, and hacking into such data is next to impossible.
Biometrics can also be used as a means of secondary authentication, supplementing a traditional method such as password login. For high-risk transactions such as online purchases or bill payments, businesses can opt for biometric prompts to ensure that only authorised users are requesting access.
Industry Use Cases
Biometric technology is being applied to a wide variety of use cases to improve safety, efficiency and identity management.
The travel industry is experiencing a revolution as checkpoints at airports and hotels are being streamlined by integrating biometric technology. Passengers can now onboard flights without showing a passport or supporting documents. A mere facial scan can screen and authenticate travellers based on existing databases.
Similarly, hospitality businesses and hotel owners are leveraging the use of biometrics in the form of self-check ins to scan visitors and integrate customer data into one point. Not only does this lead to smooth customer experiences, it ensures the safety of both businesses and individuals involved in the transaction.
Government and Law Enforcement
Some National Identity Cards now make use of biometrics to beef up security features by including chips that house data on digital photographs, fingerprints and other biometric data. This mitigates risks involved with forged identity documents that compromise privacy and anonymity.
The use of unique biometrics is also being expanded to forensics and criminal identification. Law enforcement agencies are making use of large facial and other databases to follow high-risk individuals, track activity and screen large crowds for suspicious activity.
Surveillance at airports is also being expanded from simply screening to actively looking for intruders that may be a threat to the country. This extensive use by the immigration department is improving security measures and reducing related costs.
The future outlook on the use of biometric authentication demonstrates tremendous value for businesses in terms of security, productivity and customer relationships. As a potent technology that opens up a plethora of use cases for all types of industries, there is an emerging need to regulate and manage its growth.