Which Type of Biometric Scanner Is the Most Secure?
Your fingerprint, your eyes, your facial features, your movements – these are all types of biometric data that can be used to identify you by computerized systems. But how secure is the technology really?
Biometrics are increasingly replacing traditional password and access key systems, and they are constantly evolving. Today, for example, biometric systems can recognize a person’s specific physical attributes in their fingerprints, facial features, iris, or retina. The technology is already used around the world by the armed forces to identify targets, in healthcare and for authenticating patient identities, or for online banking on individuals’ mobile phones. The technology has even advanced to be capable of identifying people by using infrared scanners to match vein patterns and blood oxygen levels under their skin.
Now, scientists are further developing technologies that can recognize a person by their heartbeat or brain waves.
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Are Biometrics More Secure than Passwords or Keys?
Biometrics are super practical and their adoption would mean we longer need to remember all those endless letter, number, and character password combinations. Using your fingerprint to log in is simple; just put your finger on the reader and you’re identified. That’s much easier than remembering and typing in a password.
However, many wonder if this development would actually increase commercial security. Passwords are relatively weak as a means of security; they’re often out of date and can be changed with a simple request. Yet, code and password systems are easy to implement. That’s probably why they’re so common.
Key codes, by contrast, are something that individuals need to memorize, without writing it down or saving it anywhere, otherwise anyone who finds it can access the building or the same digital information. Passwords and codes can be stolen, someone can watch it be entered, find where it’s been written down, or just guess it. With traditional keys, a single misplaced key is an instant security threat. When relying on electronic keys, security still relies on individuals to report a missing or stolen proximity card immediately so that permissions can be revoked. And, with all of these less technological solutions, it’s possible for individuals to share their access credentials with unauthorized personnel or to be stolen and used by others.
More elaborate security methods, and those involving more sensors, tend to deliver higher levels of security. Whether or not a biometric access system provides a higher level of protection depends on the accuracy of the reading technology. This is essentially a cost issue; the more sensors are utilized to scan a fingerprint or face, the more precise is the resulting biometric profile. So, in this sense, the security of this technology depends on how well it’s implemented. If there are enough sensors involved to produce an accurate profile, then it is definitely safer than password protection or key system.
However, biometric scanners have proved not to be 100% secure either. In testing activities, hackers have managed to outsmart biometric encryption technologies. For instance, in the lab, they have unlocked an iPhone using a fingerprint lifted from a piece of glass. Combining a picture of a person’s iris with the contact lens gave them access to a Samsung phone. A computer-developed wax hand fooled a vein scanner. While hackers were able to trick Apple’s Face ID license detection tool with just a pair of eyeglasses and some tape. These hacking tests were carried out in a laboratory setting, and would be difficult, if not unrealistic to reproduce. Yet, so far, hackers have always managed to break into facial recognition, fingerprint scanners, palm vein recognition, and more.
Which Type of Biometric Scanning System Is the Most Secure?
Biometric technology used to identify people through fingerprints, iris scans, and facial recognition work in similar ways. They all check for a single, constant biometric feature by which the system identifies an individual. In this way, biometric systems are convenient and really user-friendly. They don’t require people to remember codes, keep track of keys, or carry proximity cards.
Behavioral security technology, for example, is very secure. This analyzes simple behavioral sequences, like the length of a person’s steps, to create an individual profile of their gate. Once recorded, this profile can then be used to unlock a door or security gate as the authorized individual approaches. If a person’s movements don’t match a profile in the database, the entry will remain locked. When used with a form of two-factor authentication, such as verifying the credentials of smartphone in the individual’s pocket, this becomes a very strong form of access control.
Is the Use of Biometric Data a Privacy Concern?
With the rise of biometric technology and the implementation of scanners that capture and store our biometric information, many wonder about personal privacy.
With biometric systems, personal data is stored by companies and government entities. Ideally, this data is encrypted and stored on secure cloud servers. But this still doesn’t mean that data protection is foolproof. These measures make it harder for hackers to get to, but not impossible. Even high-security databases have been compromised by large-scale hacks and have resulted in data breaches.
Experts aren’t sure that biometric data can be entirely protected. At the same time, tech brands keep rolling out biometric security features. For example, the latest Apple and Google smartphones allow users to make payments verified by facial recognition. Smartphones and wearables now analyze how we type and the way we walk. Plus, the technology is available to individuals as well; anyone can go on social media and take a profile image which could be used as biometric information while also being used to invade citizens’ privacy. And applications of biometric data, for example, automated facial recognition used on CCTV surveillance footage to identify wanted criminals, raises some important ethical questions.
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