Biometrics is a way of making sure that the user is who he or she claims to be, thus eliminating unauthorized access to information and safeguarding it from internal threats. With data breaches becoming more complicated and impacting all sectors, organizations are gradually complementing traditional authentication techniques, especially passwords, with biometric technology. To fully understand the potential that biometrics offers towards enhancing data security, let us first understand what biometric identifies are, how they can be deployed and advantages that the technology offers.
The term “Biometrics” is coined with two words “bio” and “metric” meaning life and measure respectively. The underlying meaning is that every human is unique and can be recognized/ identified by his or her intrinsic physical or behavioral traits.
Fingerprints, face, retina, voice, ear features, typing rhythm, gait and gestures constitute as biometric identifiers. For security, a single or a composition of multiple identifiers can be used. Research and development is actively underway to encompass brainwave signals, electronic tattoos and microchips under biometric identifiers.
Fingerprint scanners, face recognition software and biometric hand reader are some of the platforms that are based on biometric technologies. Adoption of biometrics at various access points and endpoints is greatly beneficial in preventing unauthorized access and hence data loss either accidently or on purpose.
A study by ABI Research states that consumer and enterprise spending on biometrics is growing at a rate of 29% per year, with market size expected to reach $36.8 billion by 2020. Retail and banking sectors are leading in the adoption of biometric technologies because of the sheer volume of sensitive data they process.
While biometrics is gradually becoming a part of our daily lives – common examples being checks at international airports and fingerprint recognition on mobile devices – a number of organizations are yet to fully realize the capability that the technology offers. There are many advantages of deploying biometric technologies. These are:
- Biometrics are extremely accurate, though not 100%, as the identifiers are unique to each user.
- While passwords can be replicated making the system vulnerable to unauthorized users, biometric identifiers are difficult to break and thus offer very reliable data security mechanism.
- Automated biometric verification is a very quick process.
- Biometrics do not require multi-layer authentication. They are user friendly and lift up the burden from the user to remember various complex passwords. This saves time without compromising the security of sensitive data.
Organizations can enhance traditional authentication methods that they use by introducing biometrics – an additional security layer that answers “Who I am”. While barriers to adoption remain high, mainly being cost and privacy, the number of real-word applications for biometrics has been increasing. It remains to be seen if biometrics will emerge as the answer to most data theft problems or if it will only continue to act as an additional assurance to prevent data loss.