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Comment: The current state of biometric security

July 2020 by David Orme, SVP at IDEX Biometrics ASA

Using passwords and passcodes is still mainstream, but the rapid developments in technology has meant that the adoption of biometrics is now increasing especially with the rise of smart workplaces or even smart cities. Protecting individuals’ privacy is a balancing act, however, innovations such as biometric technology hold the key to measurable and reliable access.

The comment below from David Orme, SVP at IDEX Biometrics ASA, which discusses the current state of biometric security.

• Are biometrics now an accepted part of the security landscape?

In today’s digitalised world, devices need stronger security and enhanced data protection. On-device fingerprint biometrics is the obvious choice for added personal security while safeguarding privacy. Post COVID-19, health concerns are front of mind and it’s more important than ever to replace fingerprint readers with sensors in personal devices. By decommissioning communal fingerprint scanners and hand-scanning devices, this will help to improve levels of hygiene, convenience and defence in the security landscape.

For government and workplace identification, access control, and even in the payments industry, security remains paramount. Fraud is becoming ever-more advanced and new developments in connected technologies, such as IoT, have emphasised the need for a solution that places security at the forefront of innovation. This is where biometrics are playing a pivotal role, especially in identity security. With biometric authentication technology, security in public services could be revolutionised. The use of biometric smart cards in healthcare, public sector departments and services such as the NHS could see access to sensitive patient or client records limited only to the appropriate practitioner for review. In the welfare sector, biometric social benefits cards have the ability to secure how payment credits are shared and ensure that it reaches the right person.

Essentially, uses for biometric smart cards in the security landscape are endless – from granting access to government buildings or sensitive locations, authenticating payments for IoT enabled devices, to unlocking vehicles and even enable ride sharing schemes. Due to their unique and personal nature, fingerprints are an ideal means to provide stronger end-to-end authentication for individuals. Crucially, consumers are also ready to embrace biometrics for security: according to IDEX Biometrics research, just over half (53%) believe fingerprint authentication is the most convenient way of proving their identity today.

• Will multiple forms of identification using a mixture of biometric data and more traditional identifiers such as passwords remain the gold standard for personal identification?

From a personal ID perspective, only biometrics can provide a secure level of validation with an easy digital experience. Therefore, using unique biological identity and biometric data points - such as facial definitions, iris scans, and fingerprint authentication will likely soon support or replace the traditional user ID and password system for safeguarding personal identity and information. In fact, replacing a password as the lone method of ID with multi-factor authentication is a major step to counter identity fraud.

By adding fingerprint biometric authentication as an additional layer of security we can ensure the right person is accessing the right device, building or system. Rather than relying on passwords alone, manufacturers of smart devices, must look to include biometric fingerprint sensors into connected devices themselves and keep the user’s digital identity locally stored in a secure element, not in a central database. The only person who can authenticate an action, permission or transaction, where biometrics are involved, is the person whose fingerprint has been directly enrolled on to the device itself. This means locally-stored biometric data is virtually impossible for criminals to hack or intercept.

• How will biometric identification evolve over the next few years?

Biometric identification is already firmly incorporated into our everyday lives. From passing through passport control, to accessing systems at our place of work, or even unlocking our phone, we are increasingly using our physical identity as a means of authentication. Now that consumers are familiar with the technology, biometric identification will become increasingly important as technology becomes more connected with the rise of smart workplaces or even smart cities.

When everything in the ecosystem is connected, a secure fingerprint biometric ID card will enable citizens to securely and smartly access everything from public transport network to public services and even pay for goods - all from their fingerprint. Due to their unique and personal nature, fingerprints are an ideal means to provide stronger authentication. Fingerprint biometric authentication will be central to the next developmental phase of smart digital identities, access control and personal payment cards.

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