Biometric Security

Biometric technology advances have resulted in exceptionally sophisticated security and accuracy at reduced costs. Biometric technologies are fast becoming the lynchpin in many personal verification and high security identification systems.

Almost daily, improvements in technology bring increased performance at decreased cost. As a result interest in biometrics is growing exponentially. The wide availability in the marketplace of accurate, less expensive, faster, and easy to use biometric-based verification solutions are evidence of the growing acceptance of biometrics. Biometric authentication [1] is making it easier and cheaper for businesses in all spheres of the global economy to use a variety of automated information systems. Its not just for the CIA anymore.

Biometrics Simply Defined

Biometrics are automated means of identifying a person or verifying the identity of a person based on a behavioral or physiological characteristic. Examples of physiological characteristics include the following: facial characteristics; hand or finger images; and iris recognition. Behavioral characteristics are qualities that are acquired or learned. Examples of behavioral characteristics include: speaker verification, dynamic signature verification, and keystroke dynamics.

Applications for Biometrics

Integrated with other technologies such as smart cards, encryption keys, and digital signatures, or used alone, biometrics are beginning to pervade nearly all aspects of the economy and our daily lives, commercial and noncommercial. In Pennsylvania, for example, biometrics are used in lunch programs and in Minnesota they are employed in a school library.

Biometric-based technologies play a key role in personal authentication for many large and small-scale enterprises. These verification uses include physical access control [2], workstation and network access, remote access to resources, transaction security, and Web security. In addition to conventional brick-and-mortar businesses, secure electronic banking, management companies, law enforcement, and health and social services benefit widely from biometric security.

Why Use Biometrics?

There are significant and unique advantages to using biometrics for identifying human beings. Biometrics can be used to identify you as you. Tokens such photo identification cards, physical keys, etc, can be lost, faked, stolen, copied, or forgotten. Passwords, too, can be forgotten. They can also be observed or shared. Moreover, people today are expected to remember a whole host of passwords and personal ID numbers for ATMs, wireless phones, e-mail accounts, computer accounts, web sites, and so forth. Biometrics, as a keyless access control [3] method, allow for fast, user-friendly, accurate, reliable, and cheaper authentication for a variety of applications.

Fingerprints [4] are a uniquely reliable biometric. For nearly a century, fingerprints have been used by law enforcement to identify people. There is voluminous scientific data that supports the idea that no two fingerprints are alike. Although technologies such as face or iris recognition are now widely used, some of these newer biometric methods may require more research to establish their comparable reliability.

Biometrics and Business: A Beautiful Friendship

It is of paramount importance that any security or access control system be user-friendly. The process should be as easy and quick as touching a fingerprint scanner [5], having a picture taken by a video camera [6], or talking into a microphone. Low cost is also an important concern, however, most managers and business owners appreciate that it is not only the up-front cost of the security system that should be considered.

A significant advantage provided by biometric authentication is its capacity to require more instances of verification in a quick and easy manner such that users are not inconvenienced by the additional requirements. As biometric technologies advance and come into even more wide-scale commercial use, dealing with several levels or instances of authentication will become increasingly acceptable to users.
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