What is biometrics? Use cases and risks
Most of us use biometric authentication on a daily basis, but … Did you know that its origins date back to the 14th century?
Biometrics was broadly adopted in the 19th century when the French policeman Bertillón started using fingerprints to identify people. However, the first references of biometrics appeared five centuries prior, when the Chinese used palms to differentiate between young people and adults.
But…What is biometric authentication?
When we talk about biometrics (applied to information technologies) we refer to those technologies that analyze and recognize behaviors or unique characteristics of each human being, such as: DNA, fingerprints, iris, facial patterns, or voice.
Unlike authentication methods based on something you have (for example: identification card) or know (password), biometric authentication is based on something non-transferable, unforgettable, unique and that will remain unchanged during the life of the person. Not even two identical twins will have the same characteristics.
The options and possibilities of this technology are increasingly common. Some examples of the use of this technology are: identification, access control, presence control, application authentication, electronic payments … etc.
Due to the great comfort and security offered by biometric authentication, new possible uses are constantly arising.
At this point everything is an advantage…Are there any cons?
The main problem with this technology is that, like any other authentication system, it requires:
- Hardware (scanning device or reader)
- Software (converts the information into numerical values to search for matches)
- And a database (to store the information).
Risks of Biometric Authentication
This leads us to the two most common risks:
- Although unique, personal characteristics can be duplicated by hackers.
- All information stored in a database, even the encrypted one, is likely to be hacked or misused and biometric authentication is no exception.
Consequently, biometrics is constantly evolving, giving rise to improved versions, such as behavioral biometrics. Without going deep into the concept, unlike traditional biometric authentication, behavioral biometrics is based on behaviors (that is, how we write, how we walk or how we react).