Biometric Authentication: Benefits and Drawbacks

Biomatrics

Creating your digital identity is a one-time task but, verifying your identity and establishing that it indeed is “You” who is requesting access is an on-going process, and it should be, given how cybercrimes are growing with each passing day.

The process of verifying your identity is known as ‘Authentication.’ The ways of authentication have evolved from passwords to biometrics – an authentication technique that has seen an incredible adoption rate over the years and has become an integral part of every organization today.

What is Biometric Authentication?
Biometric Authentication is a new-age authentication technique that grants you access to a system by validating your unique characteristics traits against a verifiable database. It uses ‘Who you are’ approach to authentication.

A classic example would be- Biometric Authentication System installed in your office building. As you join the organization, the IT personnel records your fingerprint on the system, and each time you want to enter your office premise, you need to scan your fingerprint, once it matches the one recorded on the system, you can enter the premise.

Biometric Authentication can be used on smartphones as well and is used in tandem with Multi-Factor Authentication. It is the most adopted authentication technique, and you will be intrigued at how many types of Biometric Authentication are available today. Let’s tell you all about it.

Types of Biometric Authentication
There are multiple variants of Biometric Authentication. Essentially though, they are classified into two main types:

Behavioral Biometrics: It records and tracks the behavioral pattern of an individual such as style of his/her signature, pitch and texture of voice, or keystroke dynamics that note different strike rate and style of an individual.

Physiological Biometrics: This is a rather popular one. It records innate human characteristics such as Ear authentication, Eye vein recognition, Facial recognition, Fingerprint recognition, etc. Certain advance Physiological Biometrics include DNA matching, footprints, and foot dynamics, and Gait recognition.

It is predicted that nearly 90% of businesses will use biometric authentication by 2020. Organizations may choose to opt for one or a combination of the types mentioned above and build a Biometric Authentication Model that best suits their security requirements.

The fundamental benefit of Biometric Authentication is to validate identities, restrict unauthorized access, and keep the organization safe from threat actors trying to access essential systems. However, in addition to this, Biometric Authentication has other significant benefits too.

Advantages of Biometric Authentication

  • Speedy authentication: It takes no more than a few seconds to validate your identity via finger print, voice or face ID. You don’t need to remember a complex password or carry keys, tokens or smart cards to authenticate your identity. About two seconds is all it will take to verify your identity with Biometric Authentication.
  • Improves user accountability: Biometric Authentication requires the presence of the individual. It then generates accurate and auditable records showing who exactly attempted to access a system. There is no way one can get away with “my fingerprint was hacked”. Biometric Authentication is a hack-proof system, providing irrefutable evidence on who was trying to access the system; it invariably improves user accountability.
  • Convenient: Biometrics eliminates the need to remember credentials, carry ID proofs, or use the time-consuming, knowledge-based identification methods such as challenge-response questions. Biometric Authentication is a relatively hassle-free, user-friendly, and convenient process.
  • Profitable: The ROI on Biometric Authentication Systems is high because- it prevents unauthorized access and catastrophic breaches to a great extent and, most often, validation of identity with Biometric Authentication is sufficient since it is highly reliable; organizations don’t have to invest in other authentication systems.

All these benefits, combined, keeps the organization highly secure. However, it is always viable to be aware of both the pros and cons of Biometric Authentication. You have a clear idea of how Biometric Authentication will benefit your organization. But, certain facts of Biometric Authentication also point towards the drawbacks of it.

The downside of Biometric Authentication
There is no denying that biometrics are:

  • Restrictive towards changes: Even the slightest changes in facial expression or obstruction due to hats, scarves, glasses, etc. can restrict your access. Or say, if your finger is hurt or voice is affected by a cold, the system doesn’t recognize this change and decides that it isn’t ‘You’ who is requesting access. Biometric Authentication System is not very responsive to changes, and even the right individual may be denied access in such cases.
  • Inherently public: This is one of the main drawbacks of Biometric Authentication; there is no privacy. As you use your eyes, voice, or Face as ID proof, your image is saved in the database, and it becomes easier to identify you and analyze your buying habits. When Facebook rolled out face recognition feature, it faced a law suit claiming that it illegally collected and stored biometric data for millions of users without their consent.
  • Difficult to reset: Unlike ID and passwords that can be reset easily, biometrics captures characteristics such as blood vessel patterns, retina, heartbeat rhythms, etc. and this becomes extremely difficult to reset, even if the system is compromised.

However, despite these disadvantages, the adoption of Biometric Authentication is soaring high. When an attacker is aware that your organization is secured with Biometric Authentication System, they will move to the systems secured by passwords; as they are easily hackable when compared to biometrics. Most organizations around the world are embracing passwordless authentication methods, and biometrics is an important part of it. So, let’s uncover what place biometrics hold in future.

The future of Biometric Authentication
Bill Gates, Founder of Microsoft, expressed his support towards Biometric Authentication as he said: “Biometrics is one of the keys to providing a more transparent, secure and manageable security on a mass scale.”

According to Market Research Future (MRFR), the global next generation biometrics market would reach the valuation of USD 32BN approximately, registering over 18% CAGR throughout the forecast period (2017-2023).

Therefore, as we’ve embraced digitization; we also have to put efforts in securing and verifying our identities with passwords, IDs, tokens, smart cards, etc. However, with Biometrics Authentication, we can validate our identities by just using our unique characteristic traits.

So, looks like we are more than ready to drop the burden of carrying and remembering IDs and adopt a simple yet highly effective way of making our digital identities incredibly secure.

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