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What is Biometrics?

The word biometrics is derived from the Greek words bio, which means "life", and metric, which means "measurement". Biometrics is the study of people's physical and behavioral traits through measurement and statistical analysis.

Biometrics is mostly used as a means of securing access to a website, platform, app, etc. by employing physical characteristics. This technique of protection is more sophisticated than the traditional password-protected approach. Biometrics makes it far more difficult for potential criminals to gain access to sensitive information.

Each individual has a set of biometrics that are unique to them. Today's technology, like the traditional way of capturing fingerprints to match crime scenes, can accomplish it instantly and more effectively. There's more to biometrics than just a simple fingerprint; today, various biometrics companies employ it to secure access and information.

Why is Biometrics Important?

As the internet expands and becomes more important, so are related technologies. Specifically, technologies that enhance the overall user experience while protecting their identity.

Security is a significant factor in particular. This is because if the right safeguards or systems are not in place, an identity can be fabricated, distorted, altered, stolen, etc.

Biometric technology stands out as the foundation on which most digital identification solutions are based these days in the sphere of cybersecurity.

Biometric authentication, in reality, provides chances that other types of virtual identity validation, such as passwords cannot. This is because utilizing passwords and codes ensures that the owner has access to the information but does not validate the owner's identity. Biometric systems, on the other hand, do not because they are non-transferable.

On smartphones, such as iPhones and some Android devices, biometric data is widespread. Biometrics technology is rapidly being used in laptops and other computing devices. The use of biometric authentication and identity to log into devices and services is a fairly safe way. It can also save the trouble of remembering dozens of passwords.

Furthermore, facial recognition technology, like other biometric systems such as fingerprint, voice recognition, etc. can be used to identify people.

How Does Biometrics Work?

You have a basic understanding of biometrics if you've ever used your fingerprint to unlock a device. Biometric data is recorded, which in this case is a fingerprint. The data is then saved and accessed later to be compared against real-time data. Anyone in the world can put their finger on your device's touch circle, but it's extremely improbable that they'll be able to unlock it.

Biometrics encompasses a variety of data kinds, including fingerprints. Eye scans, voiceprints, handwriting, and the geometry of your veins are examples of biometrics that are unique to individuals and useful for security purposes.

A biometric system is made up of three components:

Firstly, a sensor keeps track of your data and reads it when your biometric data has to be recognized.

Secondly, there has to be a computer keeping the information for comparison, whether you're utilizing your biometric information to access a computer or for something else.

Lastly, the software is essential to connect the sensor to the computer hardware.

What are the Advantages of Biometrics?

Biometrics technology is becoming increasingly widespread around the world. Many government and private institutions, hospitals, and banks, to name a few industries, accept biometric solutions. People have more faith in new biometric technology than in older security systems, according to research. The basic advantages of biometric technologies that led to these developments are as follows:

  • Security: By authenticating a concrete, real-world attribute as both something the user has and something the user is, biometrics enable additional degrees of confidence to providers that a person is real. Most users' credentials, PINs, and personal identifying information have almost definitely been compromised as a result of a data breach, allowing criminals with the answers to traditional authentication methods to gain access to massive amounts of accounts. Biometric authentication adds a roadblock for fraudsters that only a real, authorized user can get around; they won't be able to use their fingerprint to unlock an account if they can't provide it right away. Furthermore, biometrics can only be given by real, breathing individuals; a robot would have a hard time passing an iris scan at this time.
  • Accuracy: Passwords, personal identification numbers (PINs), and smart cards are the most used security solutions, however, they aren't always accurate. Biometrics, on the other hand, uses physical characteristics such as fingerprints, palm veins, and retina, and provides correct service anywhere, at any time.
  • Convenience: When you know the person or only have to recognize him or her from a few people, identifying the correct individual is a breeze. But what if you have to identify hundreds or thousands of people among tens of thousands or millions? It was difficult, if not downright impossible. However, biometrics makes it possible to quickly identify the right individual among millions or to validate the right one in less than a second. On the other hand, nowadays it's becoming more and more difficult to remember or write down every password, and we're more than likely to forget them in a pinch. Whereas passwords need not be memorized or written down since the user's credentials will be with them forever.

Advantages and  Disadvantages of  Biometrics

Figure 1. Advantages and Disadvantages of Biometrics

What are the Disadvantages of Biometrics?

Biometric authentication, despite its increased security, accuracy, and simplicity, and its use in modern-day tech and digital applications has several downsides. The primary disadvantages of biometrics are outlined below:

  • Costs: Biometric security devices are more expensive than other types of security systems. Biometric servers, software, devices, programmers, and other relevant equipment all come at a high price. Additional hardware integration is required for some biometric modalities, which are expensive and difficult to manage.
  • Data Breach Risk: Hackers are constantly threatening businesses and governments that acquire and preserve personal data. Because biometric data cannot be replaced, organizations must manage sensitive biometric data with increased caution and security - an expensive and technically challenging undertaking if they are to stay ahead of fraud developments. It is always possible to alter a password that has been stolen. On the other hand, physical and behavioral biometrics cannot be changed in the same way.
  • Machine Errors: Biometric machines aren't flawless, and errors do happen. False Acceptance Rate (FAR) and False Rejection Rate (FRR) are two sorts of mistakes that biometric systems commonly make. FAR occurs when the device welcomes an unauthorized individual and FRR occurs when it rejects an authorized person.
  • Complexity: The incredibly technical and intricate technology that supports the entire system is one of the most important limitations of biometrics. Companies engage highly experienced and qualified programmers to design the system, which necessitates the hiring of programmers to manage the system.
  • Hygiene Problem: Hygiene becomes a significant issue nowadays considering pandemics and other contagious infections. Biometric technologies are available in a wide range of sizes and forms. Some are contact-based, such as fingerprint and palm vein scanners, while others are contactless, such as iris and facial recognition. A biometric device is used a trillion times by a large number of individuals in contact-based modalities. Everyone is passing their germs around via the device. You never know what you'll take with you after putting your finger on the machine.

What Are the Types of Biometrics?

Biometric data are classified into several categories, although they all serve similar purposes and work in the same way: they measure and evaluate the unique features that each individual possesses to validate that person's identification. Let's examine the most prevalent methods of biometric identification.

1. Photo and Video

If a device has a camera, it may be utilized for authentication quite quickly. Two typical methods are facial recognition and retinal examinations. Photos aren't necessarily biometric information. Although a photograph may be used to identify people based on their physical attributes, it is only through "technological processing" that it becomes biometric data. The picture data is often used to construct an individual digital template or profile, which is then used for automatic image matching and identification. For example, a biometric photo is created based on precise facial feature measurements of a person.

2. Voice

The science of utilizing a person's voice as a uniquely identifiable biological property to authenticate them is known as vocal biometrics. Speech biometrics, also known as voice verification or speaker recognition, allows rapid, frictionless, and highly secure access for a variety of applications, including call centers, mobile and web apps, chatbots, IoT devices, and physical entry.

3. Physiological Recognition

Facial traits, eye structure (retina or iris), finger parameters (papillary lines, relief, length of joints, etc. ), palm (print or topography), hand form, vein pattern on the wrist, and heat pattern are all examples of physiological recognition. Physiological recognition is now widely used to regulate access to cellphones and computers, for example. The iris is scanned at certain major airports to maintain security. The information is saved in an international database, so you won't have to line up with your passport the next time you go through security.

4. Signature

Signature recognition is a form of biometric approach that uses particular coordinates such as pen pressure, stroke order, tilt, and speed to assess the physical activity of signing. The measurements are digitally captured, and the data is subsequently utilized to generate an automated biometric profile for future authentication.

5. DNA

It's been a long time since DNA has been used for identification. It is also the only type of biometrics that can be used to trace familial relationships. When it comes to missing individuals, catastrophe victim identification, and possible human trafficking, DNA matching is very useful. Apart from fingerprints, DNA is the only biometric that may be "left behind" accidentally. Tandem (short) DNA taken from hair, saliva, sperm, and other sources contains repeat sequences (STRs). By comparing DNA STRs to other STRs in a database, it is possible to validate identification.

6. Fingerprints

One of the most well-known biometrics is fingerprint identification. Fingerprints have been used for identification for over a century owing to their uniqueness and consistency over time, but due to developments in computers, they have only lately been automated (i.e. made into a biometric). Fingerprint identification is popular due to its intrinsic simplicity of acquisition, the various sources (10 fingers) accessible for collection, and law enforcement and immigration's long-standing usage and collecting.

7. Iris Scans

Iris scanning is a technology that uses visible and near-infrared light to take a high-contrast image of a person's iris. It's a type of biometric technology that's similar to fingerprinting and facial recognition. Iris scanners capture around 240 biometric characteristics, each of which is unique to each eye. The scanners then convert the data into a digital format. The information taken from the iris picture is saved in a computer database as a numeric representation.

8. Palm Print

Palmprint characteristics are the representations of palmprints that describe a palmprint in a stable and distinct fashion, allowing for strong personal identity discrimination. A palmprint identification system uses elements of the palmprint that may or may not be visible to the human eye to identify an individual.

9. Face

In facial recognition technology, the science of biometrics is applied to a user's facial characteristics. Facial recognition algorithms identify and measure distinct aspects of human faces, such as the location of the eyes, eyebrows, mouth, nose, chin, and ears, to create a biometric template. A match score is calculated by comparing two templates and determining the chance that the two photos belong to the same individual. It's also possible to use liveness detection to make sure the biometric sample isn't a digital or paper copy.

10. Hand Geometry

Hand geometry is a type of biometrics that uses the form of a person's hands to identify them. Hand geometry readers match data recorded in a file to measurements taken of a user's palm and fingers in a range of parameters, such as length, width, deviation, and angle.

What is Biometric Authentication?

Biometric authentication is a technique that uses unique biological attributes to identify people. Biometrics are becoming increasingly common in access control systems. Biometric access control systems match biometrics to a previous version of recorded data. If both copies of the features are identical, the biometric authentication system can authenticate the identity. This type of access control is typically used to manage physical and digital assets, as well as to safeguard buildings, rooms, and computer equipment.

How Reliable is Biometric Authentication?

Traditional authentication techniques such as passwords are significantly less trustworthy than biometric authentication. According to Verizon research from 2021, password verification accounts for more than 80% of cyber intrusions. Biometric technology, on the other hand, has a far higher level of security and precision. Many biometric technologies have been around for a long time. Facial recognition and fingerprinting have been around for decades, and technological advancements have improved the accuracy of these biometric technologies.

On the other side devices, corporate computers, and the software used to analyze them can all leak authentication credentials such as fingerprint scans or voice recordings. False positives and negatives are both possible outcomes. A user who is wearing makeup or spectacles, or who is unwell or weary, may be missed by a face recognition system. Voices differ as well.

When people first get up, or whether they try to use their phone in a busy public space, or when they're furious or agitated, they sound different. Masks, photographs and voice recordings, replicas of fingerprints, and trusted family members or housemates can all be used to deceive recognition systems while the genuine user is sleeping.

Companies should utilize numerous methods of authentication at the same time, according to experts, and escalate promptly if they notice warning indicators. For example, if the fingerprint matches but the face does not, or if the account is being used fraudulently.

What are the Risks of Biometric Security?

Biometrics has long been regarded to be safer than other authentication techniques, prompting many corporations and organizations to abandon passwords in favor of using biometrics as part of multi-factor authentication (MFA) systems. Treating biometric authentication as a panacea for security issues, on the other hand, raises serious difficulties. Biometrics aren't impervious to hacking and theft, so firms considering incorporating this type of access control into their security plans should think about the possible security and privacy implications. Despite the advantages, there are several problems that must be addressed. Here are three key biometric security concerns.

  • Biometrics aren't confidential: On the surface, biometrics appear to be safe. Only you have your own ears, eyes, and fingerprints, after all. This does not mean, however, that it is more secure than passwords. Your password is intrinsically private since you are the only one who knows it. Hackers can obtain it through brute force attacks or phishing, although the majority of individuals are unable to obtain it. Biometrics, on the other hand, is largely open to the whole population. It's possible to see your ears, eyes, and face. When you look at anything, you reveal your eyes. You leave fingerprints all over the place when you utilize fingerprint recognition. Someone is using speech recognition to record your voice. All of these identifiers are, in essence, easily available.
  • Biometrics are hackable: To get into your devices or accounts, attackers can even copy your biometric identity. Any collection of data may be hacked, and databases containing much biometrics aren't uncommon. A tangible clone of your fingerprint or visage might be made from the saved template data with the evolution of technology and the human intellect. Master prints, similar to master keys, are used to unlock any doors. They contain all of the typical features seen on everyone's fingertips.
  • Hacking biometrics might have far-reaching consequences: Because a biometric discloses a portion of a user's identity, it may be used to falsify legal papers, passports, or criminal records if stolen, causing far more harm than a stolen credit card number.

How can we Make Biometrics more Secure?

Because cyber thieves are always trying to get into new security systems, users of these systems must remain vigilant. Multi-modal authentication, which involves input from many biometric devices, is one technique to keep secure while employing biometrics. This will assist close some gaps, such as the use of stolen voice and face prints or cloned fingerprints.

Biometrics can now be improved because of improvements in artificial intelligence and machine learning. Users' internet activities can be investigated. A behavior-based system may create a more sophisticated user profile since individuals are creatures of habit. The observed behavior will aid in distinguishing a legitimate user from possible danger.

Because it's difficult to tell if your biometrics have been stolen, it's essential to take preventative precautions such as the following:

  • Use biometric authentication as part of a multi-factor authentication system.
  • If you're in charge of storing biometric template data, ensure your servers and cloud environments are safe and secured.
  • Know that your face geometry, fingerprints, and other biometrics could already have been identified and readily available in the hands of thieves. You can change your password but not your fingerprints, so are mindful if biometric security is your sole option.
  • If you utilize biometric verification on one of your devices, make sure your software is up to date.
  • Always be aware of who and why your biometric data is being collected.

Biometrics History

While the oldest descriptions of biometrics date back to the Babylonian kingdom in 500 BC, the first record of a biometric identification system is from the 1800s in Paris, France. Alphonse Bertillon devised a technique for classifying and comparing offenders based on unique body dimensions. While this technique was far from ideal, it was the first step toward leveraging unique biological traits to verify identification.

In the 1880s, fingerprinting became popular as a method of identifying offenders as well as a type of contract signing. A fingerprint was acknowledged as a marker of a person's identity, and it might be used to hold someone accountable.

Biometrics as a subject of study expanded at an exponential rate throughout the next century. There were so many advancements throughout the 1900s that it would be impossible to mention them all, so here are some of the highlights from the second half:

In the 1960s, semi-automated facial recognition systems were developed, requiring administrators to study facial characteristics in photos and extract meaningful feature points. Unlike the ones we can use to access our phones, these are far more manual!

By 1969, fingerprint and face recognition had become so common in law enforcement that the FBI allocated funds to creating automated systems. As a result, more sophisticated biometric capture and data extraction technologies have been developed.

In the 1980s, the National Institute of Standards and Technologies created the Voice section to study and enhance voice recognition technology. Today's voice command and recognition systems are built on the foundation of this research.

In 1985, it was proposed that irises, like fingerprints, are unique to each person, and in 1994, the first iris identification method was patented. Furthermore, blood vessel patterns in the eyes were discovered to be unique to each individual and might be used for authentication.

Face detection technology was created in 1991, allowing for real-time recognition. Even though these systems had several flaws, they sparked a surge of interest in facial recognition research.

Hundreds of biometric authentication recognition algorithms were functioning and patented in the United States by the 2000s. Biometrics were no longer being used just in huge corporations or by the government. They were used in commercial items and large-scale events such as the 2001 Super Bowl.

Biometric technology research has progressed at a breakneck pace in the last ten years. Biometrics has evolved from a revolutionary technology to an integral component of daily life. In 2013, Apple added a fingerprint scanner to the iPhone, paving the way for biometric authentication to become widely accepted. Most smartphones now have biometric capabilities, and many applications employ biometrics as a form of authentication for routine tasks.

Even with all of the expansion, biometric authentication and identity development options are far from being exhausted. We're seeing biometrics and artificial intelligence being combined as research progresses. The goal is to create biometric devices and systems that can learn and adapt to the needs of their users. Creating a smooth and seamless authentication process.

Identification proxies may become obsolete when biometrics become more widely used. You won't need to carry keys, cards, or fobs if you can use yourself as proof of your identification. In a future with a properly identifiable society, frictionless transactions, interactions, and access control may be on the horizon.