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What Is Biometric Security and Why Does It Matter Today?

What Is Biometric Security and Why Does It Matter Today?

Technology is integrated into just about every aspect of modern life – and with the ever-increasing digitization of our world, it has become more difficult to safeguard confidential information. Keys and passwords are no longer sufficient data security measures. Passwords, in fact, pose a huge vulnerability in a company’s security system due to their shareability and ease of cracking.

With the abundance of and network security breaches and the rise of identity theft, it is clear that stronger authentication methods are necessary. One such method is biometric security systems. In this article, we’ll take a close look at what biometric security is and why it’s the future of identification and authentication.

Table of Contents

What Is Biometric Security? Extended Definition & Meaning
What Are Biometric Identifiers?
What Are Biometric Identification and Authentication?
Why Is Biometric Security Important Nowadays?
How Do Biometric Security Systems Work?
How Biometric Security Systems Are Designed
Types of Biometric Security
Examples of Popular Biometric Security
Facial Recognition
Iris Scanning
Retinal Scan
Fingerprinting
Voice Recognition
Vein Recognition
Hand Geometry
What Are Biometric Security Systems Used For?
Banking
Business Security
Self Check-In
Device Security
Money Security
Home Security
Are Biometric Security Systems Safe?
How Should Biometric Data Be Protected?
How to Protect Your Biometric Data
How Companies Should Protect Your Biometric Data
Advantages and Disadvantages of Biometric Security Systems
Advantages of Biometric Security
Disadvantages of Biometric Security
Addressing the Downsides of Biometric Security
The Future of Biometric Security
Summary
Biometry Security FAQ
Is biometric security safe?
Where is biometric security used?
How can biometric security be compromised?
Why is biometric security so difficult to defeat?
What are biometric security devices?
How can biometric security be improved?
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What Is Biometric Security? Extended Definition & Meaning

Biometric security is a security mechanism that identifies people by verifying their physical or behavioral characteristics. It is currently the strongest and most accurate physical security technique that is used for identity verification. Biometrics are mainly used in security systems of environments that are subject to theft or that have critical physical security requirements. Such systems store characteristics that remain constant over time – for instance, fingerprints, voice, retinal patterns, facial recognition, and hand patterns.

These characteristics are stored as “templates” in the system. When somebody tries to access the system, the biometric security system scans them, evaluates the characteristics, and attempts to match them with stored records. Then, if a match is found, the person is given access to the facility or device.

The most commonly used kind of biometric security system in physical access is fingerprint sensors. This is due to their lower cost; however, for the best accuracy, high-security environments often use iris recognition systems.

What Are Biometric Identifiers?

Biometrics are unique physical identifiers that are used by automated recognition systems. For instance, the veins in your palm, the minutiae of your fingerprints, and the shape and pattern of your iris are all your unique biometric identifiers. For a full breakdown of biometrics, read our detailed guide, “What Is Biometrics?”

What Are Biometric Identification and Authentication?

While biometric security systems can combine identification and authentication, the two functions are not the same. With biometric identification, a person’s features are compared to an entire database. With biometric authentication, on the other hand, the system is checking to see if the person is who they say they are – so their attributes are compared against one particular profile from the database.

For a practical example: Facial recognition security systems might use video surveillance to identify known shoplifters when they enter the premises of a store. The store might also have a separate fingerprint system that authenticates an employee and gives them access to a restricted room upon scanning their fingerprint – the scanned data is compared to the stored, approved template.

If you want a more detailed look at the difference between the two functions of biometrics, check out our article, “Biometric Authentication, Identification, and Verification in 2020.”

Why Is Biometric Security Important Nowadays?

More and more companies are recognizing the benefits that biometric security devices can bring – not just in securing physical environments but also computers and business assets. In corporate buildings, it is crucial that unauthorized people are restricted from accessing secure networks and systems. Furthermore, due to compliance regulations, it must be ensured that only certain employees have access to sensitive files and that workflow processes are followed to the letter. For sensitive data, passwords aren’t ideal, as co-workers can share them. Instead, organizations can use biometrics to regulate server or computer access.

Companies that use biometric security systems can benefit from extreme accuracy and unparalleled security of restricted information. Fingerprints, retinal scans, and iris patterns, when captured correctly, produce totally unique data sets. When an employee or a user is enrolled in a biometric security system, automatic identification can be performed uniformly, quickly, and with only minimal training.

How Do Biometric Security Systems Work?

The importance of biometric security in modern society is ever-growing. Physical characteristics are unique and fixed – including among siblings and even twins. An individual’s biometric identity is able to replace (or, at the very least, supplement) password systems for phones, computers, and restricted areas.

After a person’s biometric data is gathered and matched, the system saves it to be matched with subsequent access attempts. Usually, the biometric data is encrypted and then stored either in the device itself or in a remote server.

Hardware known as biometrics scanners captures physical characteristics for identity verification and authentication. The hardware’s scans are compared to the saved database – and, depending on whether a match is found, access is granted or restricted. You can think of your own body as a key to unlock secure areas.

Biometrics brings two major benefits: they are convenient, and they are difficult to impersonate. While such systems aren’t perfect, they bring huge potential to the future of cybersecurity.

How Biometric Security Systems Are Designed

When designing a biometric system, the primary goal is to encrypt the private cryptographic code with biometric technologies – each of those technologies should produce a limited number of information vectors – which, in turn, will be considered as biometric cryptographic keys. Next, the systems must calculate a hash function for every key. Hashes may be stored on a USB token, a server, a smart card, or another form of storage. One benefit of this process is that the storage method won’t actually contain any sensitive data since the biometric attributes features themselves are not stored.

Each part of the private key is encrypted with all biometric vectors produced in the biometric attribute encryption phase. The entirety of the information (i.e., hashes and encrypted values) is saved on the database. Since the database doesn’t contain secret information, access to it does not need to be limited. The biometric key encryption is only stored in volatile RAM.

Identity verification is done via the hash values. When an individual attempts to log in, they claim their identity and then present one of their features for biometric authentication. If just verification is performed, one biometric attribute is plenty – for instance, a fingerprint scan. A certain set of features is acquired from this biometric attribute. Then, from that set, a subset of vectors is generated. That subset is considered to be the biometric cryptographic key. Lastly, the hash function is calculated from this vector – and the calculation’s result is compared to stored hash values.

Types of Biometric Security

We’ve written a complete guide to types of biometrics; here, though, we’ll present a summary of the most crucial information.

There are two main types of biometrics used for security: physical and behavioral. Physical biometrics analyze facial features, eye structure, hand shape, and other things involving your body’s physical form. With behavioral biometrics, on the other hand, the system analyzes any pattern of behavior that is
associated with the individual.

Physical Behavioral
— Facial geometry
— Fingerprints
— Skull shape
— Retina
— Iris
— Hand geometry
— Palm or finger veins
— DNA
— Speaker recognition
— Signature
— Keystroke dynamics
— Gait

Examples of Popular Biometric Security

Some forms of biometrics are more popular than others, either due to their affordability (fingerprint scans) or their high levels of accuracy (iris recognition). Let’s take a look at some of the most widespread forms of biometric security systems.

Facial Recognition

Facial recognition is done by analyzing the ratios of an individual’s facial features: for instance, the distance between the eyes, the nose, the lips, the ears, the chin, and the eyebrows. Facial recognition is highly accurate, and results only take a split-second.

Iris Scanning

Iris authentication technology photographs a person’s iris and analyzes its texture. The software uses approximately 260 anchor points when creating a sample – which is much higher than, say, fingerprint systems, which have 60-70 anchor points.

Retinal Scan

Each retina has its own unique network of capillaries – and, in most cases, the retina remains unchanged throughout a person’s lifetime. Retina scanning occurs when a beam of infrared light is projected into somebody’s eye via an eyepiece. The retina’s capillaries absorb the light better than other parts of the eye, so the scan is able to create a pattern of blood vessels – which is then measured and verified.

Fingerprinting

Fingerprint systems are very commonly used due to their affordability, security, and relative accuracy. A fingerprint scanner produces a digital image of the print, and a computer turns the minutiae into a code via pattern-matching software. That code is then compared to the database of approved identities.

Voice Recognition

A speaker’s voice is used to verify their claimed identity. It is a 1:1 match, in which their voice is compared to a voice model (also known as a voiceprint). Such systems usually give access to secure systems like telephone banking. Voice recognition typically operates with an individual’s knowledge and cooperation.

Vein Recognition

This kind of biometrics is used to identify people based on their unique vein patterns within their palm or finger.

Hand Geometry

Geometrics features of a person’s hand are assessed and compared to a template. Features assessed may include the length of the fingers, the distance between knuckles, and the width of the hand.

What Are Biometric Security Systems Used For?

You have likely noticed biometric security systems showing up more and more often in retail and banking environments, as well as mobile devices. Let’s take a closer look at where you can see biometrics in use today – some will be familiar to you, but others may come as a surprise.

Banking

Banking customers have grown weary of the constant need to prove their identity – yet, without this, the threat of identity theft will continue to rise. Therefore, biometric security systems for banks are in demand. Many banks that have mobile apps allow user authentication via biometrics such as facial recognition, fingerprint scanning, and voice verification. And other banks use a combination of these biometrics; multi-factor authentication, when combined with biometrics, can create a nearly impenetrable layer of security.

Business Security

Many companies nowadays are installing access control and time tracking systems that incorporate biometric authentication. Take, for instance, Id-Time from RecFace. This software automatically records employees’ working hours and compliance with labor regulations, and it uses biometric data to do so. Identification takes less than 1 seconds, and 7 kinds of reports are generated during the execution.

Self Check-In

Single sign-on is a method of authentication in which a user logs in to multiple software systems with just one ID and password. For instance, you can use your Google login information to access Gmail, Google Drive, YouTube, and many more applications.

Single sign-on is also often used in healthcare services to give doctors access to many systems easily and quickly. However, the healthcare industry is often subject to data breaches – which means that there is a pressing need for the industry to begin integrating biometric authentication into single sign-on procedures.

Device Security

Over the last few years, iOS and Android devices have added biometric authentication features. The first smartphone to feature fingerprint scanning was the Motorola Atrix back in 2011. At the time, the technology was quite flawed; nowadays, though, almost every modern smartphone uses fingerprint scanning.

However, device biometrics has also moved beyond mere fingerprints. Take Face ID, for example; it was introduced in 2017 with Apple’s iPhone X. This feature projects more than 30,000 infrared points onto a user’s face, assessed the resulting pattern, and then generates a “facial map.” That map is then used to authenticate later login attempts.

Samsung has a biometric security feature of its own: Intelligent Scan. It combines facial recognition with an iris scan, thus providing biometric multi-factor authentication.

Money Security

We mentioned how biometrics are used by banks; however, there is another financial application: biometric payment security. This technology is integrated during transaction authorization processes and, for now, mostly involves a fingerprint scan.

Home Security

Biometric technology can allow an individual to enter a home once its scanning unit has verified their identity. Access to office buildings, entire houses, or particular rooms can be controlled via biometrics. Biometric locks negate the need for a key and are operated with the swipe of a fingerprint instead.

Are Biometric Security Systems Safe?

While biometric technology has been growing by leaps and bounds, and it certainly an exciting industry, you must keep in mind that it doesn’t guarantee absolute cybersecurity. While biometric security is much harder to fool than passwords, it is still possible to be breached. For instance, criminals can “lift” fingerprints off of surfaces and use them to access biometrically secured systems.

Furthermore, you must consider whether the database that holds your biometric data is secure. Take, for instance, when the US Office of Personnel Management was breached in 2015. Over 5 million fingerprints were stolen. If your data is compromised, it isn’t as if you can change your fingerprints.

It is also possible to “trick” biometric scanners that use facial recognition technology. Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill constructed 3-D models of 2D face photographs. The researchers then tried to access five security systems using those 3-D models, and they successfully breached four of the systems.

So, as you can see, while biometric security is highly accurate, it is not invulnerable to breaches.

How Should Biometric Data Be Protected?

While organizations that gather biometric data are primarily responsible for protecting it, there are ways that you can take personal responsibility to protect your data. Here are some guidelines that individuals and businesses should follow to protect biometric information.

How to Protect Your Biometric Data

  1. Only share your biometrics with highly trusted organizations;
  2. Before sharing your biometrics with organizations, make sure that they have necessary cybersecurity measures in place;
  3. Only share biometric data when it’s absolutely necessary. Ask if it’s worth it; for instance, is enabling facial recognition on Facebook truly necessary?
  4. Use strong passwords to make it difficult for hackers to steal your stored biometrics;
  5. Use reputable cybersecurity software to safeguard your digital life.

How Companies Should Protect Your Biometric Data

  1. Keep all systems and software up-to-date;
  2. Use multi-factor authentication and strong internal passwords;
  3. Use reputable, strong cybersecurity software;
  4. Use anti-spoofing technology to protect the system from breaches.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Biometric Security Systems

To sum up what we’ve presented about biometric security systems so far, we’ve compiled their advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of Biometric Security

  1. Biometrics are inherent to the user. In the vast majority of cases, a person’s fingerprints, retinal patterns, and facial geometry will never change;
  2. Biometrics are difficult to duplicate. Most modern biometric security systems use liveliness checks to protect against spoofing attempts;
  3. Permissions are easily managed. With many systems, administrators can instantly give or restrict permissions to employees, and the list of accepted templates is automatically modified;
  4. Efficiency is increased. Most biometric systems can authenticate users in less than one second – thus strongly cutting down on time delays caused by PINs, passwords, and manual identity checks;
  5. Fewer security staff. A biometrics system can do the work of multiple security employees – meaning that companies can save money since there is less need for assigning dedicated security staff to access points;
  6. No replacement costs. Lost fobs and cards occur at a high rate, and this often comes with a replacement cost. Biometrics, on the other hand, can’t be lost.

Disadvantages of Biometric Security

  1. The environment can impact biometric security. For instance, a higher error rate may occur in a very cold environment;
  2. There could be a false acceptance or a false rejection. Both have been known to happen; even though biometric security may have a 99% accuracy rate, the 1% rate of inaccurate authentication could have detrimental results;
  3. They require hardware and integrations. Not only does a biometric security system rely on having a computer, a sensor, and the necessary software, but it also needs the expertise of a programmer for system management;
  4. Scanning challenges may occur. For instance, if you are wearing glasses during an iris scan, this could cause difficulties and slow down an otherwise quick process;
  5. They come at a high cost. Even though biometric systems are cheaper than they used to be, they are still much more expensive than traditional security devices;
  6. Biometric data can’t be reset if it is compromised. If your fingerprints are stolen, you can’t
    change them like a password.

Addressing the Downsides of Biometric Security

With security solutions from RecFaces, you can offset the downsides of biometrics. By integrating your
biometric scanners with the RecFaces platform, each of your security systems will be improved in the
following ways:

  • 1 sec. identification speed;
  • 10 mix-and-match, ready-to-use products (including Id-Target, Id-Guard, Id-Logon, and more);
  • Increased security;
  • Additional identity verification measures for large transactions.

Our solutions are highly suitable for business centers, industrial facilities, sports centers, schools, retail
centers, banks, transportation facilities, medical institutions, and the law enforcement industry. Contact
us for a consultation on how our solutions can fit your organization’s security needs!

The Future of Biometric Security

We strongly believe that biometrics are the future of e-security systems – and the proof is in the pudding: more institutions are embracing biometrics by the day. Even the Windows 10 OS has incorporated a biometric security platform. Biometrics are also used in stadiums, airports, and banks across the world. Government agencies and law enforcement have also migrated to biometric systems – therefore, it is very likely that even more organizations will follow suit in the near future.

While biometric security systems are not fool-proof, they are still faster, more cost-efficient (in the long run), and more accurate than traditional security methods.

Summary

To sum up what we’ve presented today: biometric security systems most often measure the physical characteristics of an individual, and then provide access to a computer, a server, or an environment. Some popular kinds of biometric systems are facial recognition, fingerprint scanning, and iris recognition. The world of biometrics is developing quickly – we anticipate that it will become more prevalent than traditional security in just a few years.

Biometry Security FAQ

Is biometric security safe?

Biometric security is highly accurate, but it is not fool-proof. When used correctly, though, and when cybersecurity guidelines are followed, it is safe.

Where is biometric security used?

Biometric security is largely used in banks, airports, retail stores, law enforcement, and medical centers.

How can biometric security be compromised?

Biometric security can be compromised if hackers breach a biometric information database.

Why is biometric security so difficult to defeat?

Biometric security systems rely on the analysis of many data points, and often they come with anti-spoofing technology built in.

What are biometric security devices?

Biometric security devices are scanners or cameras that capture physical features to be analyzed and authenticated.

How can biometric security be improved?

Organizations can keep biometric data safe by using multi-factor authentication, anti-spoofing software, and strong internal passwords.

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