Biometrics on the Rise

Fingerprint and retinal scans have moved from the realm of science fiction into everyday consumer and corporate security, and even more rigorous biometric options are on the way, experts say. Deloitte Global says more than a billion mobile devices will rely on fingerprint technology for access this year. New tech makes it possible to authenticate in less invasive ways, improving security across the board.

“Behavioral and biometric authentication will make passwords obsolete, sooner than you might think,” says David Vergara, head of global product marketing at VASCO Data Security. “The death of static passwords is no surprise: They’re easily hacked or stolen, they’re hard to remember and they’re often reused from one site to another, maximizing the impact of breaches.”

Here’s what you need to know about the role of biometrics.

What Can It Be Used For?

Biometrics can provide a high level of controlled access to physical places, such as labs, computer rooms and other secure areas. Biometrics are also used to access data or information. In some cases, biometrics could be linked to customer preference or customization in a retail environment.

As biometrics systems increasingly use multiple markers for authentication, or combine with passwords, they become even more secure. “Using just one physical biometric for identification is like having a password — it can be stolen and used,” says Ryan Wilk, vice president of customer success at NuData Security, a passive biometrics firm based in Vancouver, British Columbia. “Cybercriminals have already demonstrated they can get around selfies, fingerprints and retinal scans alone.”

Who’s Using It?

Industries and companies that have lots of valuable data or access to finances are leading the way in using biometrics. “Financial organizations and e-commerce companies are the primary drivers as they have the most to lose to fraud, along with the loss of customers as well due to impact on customer experience,” Wiik says. Health care and biomedical research organizations are also using biometrics to protect access and data.

Transportation and insurance are looking for ways to adopt biometric technologies, experts say, and retail has been an emerging industry as well. Some applications in these industries include access, fraud and loss management, and customer service.

What’s on the Horizon?

Advances in mathematics, machine learning and artificial intelligence are enabling applied analytics to physical behavior enough to identify a person without violating their right to privacy, says Mackenzie Fribance, vice president of strategic initiatives at Intensity Analytics, a security software firm in Warrenton, Virginia. “An advantage of behavioral solutions is that there is nothing more for a user to know, have or do — they simply behave like themselves,” Fribance says. “It is frictionless and, as a result, delivers a far superior user experience.”

Behavioral solutions can also mitigate some privacy issues. “Biometrics are fundamentally a fantastic way to confirm identity, but there are some significant barriers to using them in security solutions in a digital world,” Fribance says. “In terms of establishing a digital identity, biometrics cannot be changed — once your information is hacked, as happened at the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management, your biometric information is no longer private and you can’t just go and change your fingerprint.”

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