Biometrics are proving themselves to be a supremely effective form of fortifying online privacy and protection. Biometrics, as the name indicates, involves the application of a statistical analysis to biological data. The basis behind biometric authentication is that each person can be positively and correctly identified by their unique physical or biological characteristics. Biometrics can also be defined by behavioural characteristics or identifiers too.
Why are biometrics important though and what are they used for? The use of biometric identification is becoming more and more popular as an almost fool-proof and reliable means of authenticating an identity through undeniable and intrinsic physical and behavioural features. There is however a difference between biometric identification and biometric authentication. Biometric authentication in layman’s terms is a data comparison – the authentication process involves the comparison of different datasets in relation to the template established around a person’s unique characteristics. This differs slightly from biometric identification as the process involves positively identifying a person through the use of biometric data such as fingerprints, photographs and voice recognition.
The reason that biometric data is gaining popularity as a security measure is due to the fact that other, more traditional security measures are not as secure and hard to replicate or override, which in turn facilitates and enables the prevalence of cybercrime, identity theft and fraud. Nowadays it is far too easy to hack an account, steal an identity, commit fraud, break the law – or all of the above. It is also a much faster way of establishing and verifying a person’s identity. Biometric measurements can be separated into two categories: namely physiological and behavioural.
Physiological measurements include fingerprints, handprints, vein patterns, retinas or irises as well as the symmetry and shape of the face. Also included in this category are the obvious and undeniable identifying characteristics such as DNA markers. Behavioural characteristics on the other hand, include voice recognition – which is how Siri can be voice activated and able to recognize our voices. Behavioural characteristics also cover the way in which we walk and write or put pen to paper when we sign a document.
Biometrics have become part of everyday processes, such as using fingerprints to unlock cellphones or authorize in-app payments. Fingerprints are also often used in the workplace in order to gain access to specific work zones. Retina scans are generally used for higher or more specialized security purposes. The use of biometrics has been rolled out across multiple industries including governments, as part of the justice system, administration, or for personal and individual use. The standardization of biometric security can largely be attributed to the fact that biometrics are easier and more efficient than passwords and more effective too. If you’re like me, and cannot remember a password to save your life, then a ‘password-less’ future is definitely something to look forward to.