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Biometric authentication, identification, and verification in 2021

Biometric Authentication & Biometric Identification: Explained With Examples | RecFaces

Thanks to the ever-growing instances of account takeover fraud, there is a direct and pressing need for more secure authentication and identification protocol. The days of gaining access to an account by simply inputting a username and password are growing obsolete. Virtually every industry has been experimenting with biometric authentication systems that are more robust than traditional methods and, thus, can better mitigate the risk of fraud. Read on to find out more about how biometrics can be applied to security processes.

What Is Biometric Authentication, Identification, and Verification?
How Does Biometric Authentication Work?
Traditional Authentication Methods
Does Biometric Verification Work Better than Traditional Methods?
How Biometric Authentication Increases Security
Biometric Identification for Tracking and Collecting Data
Real Examples of Integrating Biometric Authentication or Identification in a Current System
Main Takeaways on Biometric Authentication and Identification
Biometric Authentication FAQ

What Is Biometric Authentication, Identification, and Verification?

While biometric systems can combine authentication, verification, and identification, there are some key differences between those three facets. Namely, identification asks, “who are you?” while verification asks, “Is there data associated with you?” Authentication asks, “Are you who you say you are?”

Biometric Authentication

Biometric authentication’s aim is to verify that you are who you are supposed to be. With such systems, a computer will scan a person for inherent attributes — for instance, a face recognition template, and will then compare the individual’s characteristics to a template stored within a database. If the scanned attributes match the template, the person is allowed into the system.

Biometric Identification

Biometric identification can be applied to digital and physical scenarios, and it’s a solution that is used in defense, law enforcement, and border control. With identification, there is a database that contains physical characteristics of a vast number of people — for instance, the FBI’s repository stores the height, hair color, weight, eye color, scars, and tattoos of over 70,000,000 criminal records. With authentication, a person’s features are compared to one specific template — or 1:1. With identification, however, the person’s features are matched against the entire database — 1:N.

Biometric Verification

Biometric verification is often confused with authorization — however, there is a subtle difference between the two processes. While authentication indicates that a person has the same biometric features as somebody who is already in the system, verification can conclusively prove that their online identity is linked with their real-life identity.

How Does Biometric Authentication Work?

The process of biometric authentication looks like this:

  1. Enrollment. A reference sample is collected from an individual — perhaps a photo, a writing sample, a retina scan, or a fingerprint. The biometrics sample created by specialized algorithms from these data is called a template, and it is either stored in a database or on a card, or it is managed by an authenticating authority.
  2. Live Sample. Now that the template is in place, the user provides a live sample as part of the authentication process. For instance, they may insert a card containing face recognition data in a machine and then make a photo of the user.
  3. Comparison. In order to complete the authentication process, Step 2’s live sample is compared to the template. If there is a verified match, the user is authenticated and may access the system.

What Do Biometrics Use to Perform Authentication of Identity?

While it’s clear that biometric authentication has distinct advantages over traditional methods of authentication, there are still many types of biometrics that can be captured and measured. Some are more effective than others. For a quick overview, check out the table below — but for a more detailed analysis, read our article, Types of Biometrics.

TypesHow It Works
FingerprintCaptures and verifies the minutia (whorls, loops, and arches) of a fingerprint
HandMeasures a hand’s geometric features — such as the width of the hand and the length of its fingers
IrisIdentifies an individual by the unique patterns of their iris
FaceMeasures facial geometry, including the distance between key features
DNAAnalysis of DNA segments
Hand VeinAnalyzing the vein patterns in a palm or finger
RetinaNear-infrared camera capture capillaries towards the back of the eye
Ear ShapeAnalyzes the shape of an ear
KeystrokeCaptures and analyzes a person’s pattern while typing
SignatureMeasures pen pressure, inclination, speed, and stroke order
VoiceThe sound of a voice and the tone of speech (inflection and cadence) are combined and measured
GaitA person’s walking style is used to determine identity

Traditional Authentication Methods

Some of the classic authentication methods include:

  • Passwords: This is a method that requires a user to input a username (or email address) and a password in order to access a system. However, even though this method is quite old-fashioned and unsecure, it is by no means obsolete. Currently, this is the most common method of authentication used to secure email accounts, computers, and online purchases.
  • Knowledge-Based: When KBA is implemented in an authentication system, the user will need to create a question/answer challenge — for instance, “What was the name of your first pet?” When the user logs into the account, or if they attempt to access the system from a new device, they will be asked that question. However, it is usually pretty easy for a hacker to uncover the answer to such simple questions.
  • Token-Based: With this form of authentication, a user either needs a physical token (a card, key fob, dongle, or RFID chip) or a software token (these are stored on a mobile phone, desktop computer, PDA, or laptop).
  • Out-of-Band: This process is where a user’s authentication relies upon two signals coming from two separate networks. For instance, SMS verification falls under this category. When you log onto an account, a verification text may be sent to your phone via SMS.

Does Biometric Verification Work Better Than Traditional Methods?

While biometric verification does have some drawbacks, it is still much more secure than traditional methods. This is mainly due to two excellent security advantages: biometrics are able to offer much better accuracy than classic methods, and biometrics are far more difficult to steal, lose, or lend. Out of all verification approaches, biometrics has the greatest link to a person’s actual identity. It is highly difficult — and impossible for the average person — to falsify your biometrics.

However, there are some kinds of biometrics that aren’t as accurate as other ones — for instance, while somebody’s fingerprints won’t change throughout the day, their voice might sound different when they are sick. Biometrics experts recommend for companies to use multiple forms of authentication — this way, if the face is a match but the fingerprint is not, the login attempt can be flagged, and a backup authentication method can be used.

How Biometric Authentication Increases Security

When organizations adopt biometric authentication, they can capitalize on a wide variety of use cases. Here are a few biometrics examples:

Self check-in: A user can check-in to a hotel or a flight without waiting in a long line; all they have to do is scan their facial features at a terminal.

Updating credentials: This can be done in any case where authentication is required; you can easily reset forgotten passwords since your biometrics prove that you are who you say you are.

E-learning(proctoring): Colleges, proctoring services, and e-learning providers can use biometrics to authenticate exam-takers. End-users may be requested to authenticate their identity before the exam or even during the test.

Home Assistants: Anybody who uses Alexa, Siri, or Google Home is already using voice recognition as a biometric identifier. When you link home assistance to connected devices (security cameras, door locks, security lights, and more), security is crucial. You wouldn’t want a stranger controlling your home — which is why these home assistants are programmed to recognize the voices of authorized users.

Money security: Financial institutions can require selfies from their online customers so that high-value transactions are protected.

Device security: It is becoming more common for smartphones and bank mobile applications to utilize biometrics in the unlocking process. Users can simply scan their fingerprint or use the front-facing camera to capture their facial features.

Home security: Homeowners (and businesses) can now use biometrics as an affordable method of securing their property from thieves. Fingerprint locks are faster, more convenient, and more secure than using conventional key locks.

Data security: Sensitive data can be restricted to certain individuals and their biometrics — you no longer have to worry about juggling many passwords or somebody stealing your login credentials.

Biometric Identification for Tracking and Collecting Data

Some biometric solutions effectively help security managers respond to facility incidents in a timely manner and conduct investigations without having to view the video archive for hours. Recfaces’ ID-Guard is one such program — it can be installed alongside your existing video surveillance system. Your cameras’ feeds are connected to the software which uses biometric identification with facial images.

Another way to track and collect data is through automatically recording employees’ working hours and monitoring their compliance with the organizations’ labor discipline rules. With Recfaces’ ID-Time, the system can compile reports and statistics on the hours that the employee actually works.

Real Example of Integrating Biometric Authentication or Identification in a Current System

In August of 2020, RecFaces and the ASTRON Design Bureau announced that they are combining ASTRON’S TT thermal imagers with RecFaces’ ID-ME platform. The thermal imager was designed to detect people who have high temperatures without needing to come in contact with them. Now, with the ID-ME capabilities, scanned individuals will also be subject to error-free access control.

Once the integration model was created, there were two verification phases: first, there was the body temperature obtained as an indicator of health. The second one was comparing the person’s biometrics to the company’s database. The access control system may be configured to block the device (a barrier or a turnstile) if a person fails one of the two verification phases.

Main Takeaways on Biometric Authentication and Identification

There are a few main points to keep in mind about biometric authentication and identification:

  1. Identification asks who you are, while authentication seeks to prove it.
  2. Biometrics can have false negatives or positives (for instance, when your voice changes during sickness), but they are still more accurate, more efficient, and safer than traditional access methods.
  3. Biometrics can be integrated into many facets of a business — transactions, data access, e-learning, updating credentials, securing a facility, and more.
  4. There are a huge number of measurable biometrics, with some more accurate than others.

Biometric Authentication FAQ

If you still have any questions regarding biometric authentication, check out our FAQ:

Can biometric authentication be fooled?

Yes, biometric authentication can be fooled; however, it is much more difficult to fake biometrics than it is to steal a password. Some methods of biometric fraud include replicating fingerprints with silicone, printing a photo of an iris, and placing a contact lens over it to mimic roundness, or mimicking a voice.

Where is biometric authentication and identification used?

Biometrics are used in nearly every industry — from the financial sector and health care to retail, border control, automotive industries.

Where is all the information stored?

Biometric data may be stored on an end-user’s device, in a database server, on a control board, within a portable token, or as part of a distributed data storage scheme.

What is the best type of biometric authentication?

Iris recognition is considered to be one of the most accurate and quickest methods of biometric identification — furthermore, it is non-invasive, non-contact, and hygienic.

What are biometric tools?

Biometric tools are devices used to capture the physical attributes of a person. They can differ depending on what exactly is being captured and the method of doing so — for instance, fingerprint scanners can be optical, capacitive, ultrasound, or thermal.

Why is biometric authentication important?

Biometric authentication is sought-after because it is unique to the user, highly secure, fast, low maintenance, and its design can be flexible. It is more secure and convenient than traditional authentication methods.

What is biometrics used for?

Some of the most common biometric applications include airport security, law enforcement investigations, tracking time and attendance in workforce management, access control and single sign-ons, and banking.

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