Biometrics

‘Biometrics’ is gaining more recognition in today’s world – thanks be to popular organizations embracing it. What is ‘Biometrics’ and what are the different types of biometrics? Read on to find out:

Biometrics – Definition:

Biometrics is uniquely used to identify a person by making use of the distinct characteristics of a person. According to the Michigan State University Biometrics research group, “The field of biometrics examines the unique physical or behavioral traits that can be used to determine a person’s identity”.  These unique traits can be fingerprints, palm scan, hand geometry, retina scan, iris scan, keyboard scan to name a few of them.

With every website requiring the usual ‘username’ and ‘password’ combination, to identify an individual,  it becomes more and more difficult for users to remember  the different usernames and passwords. ‘Password fatigue’ sets in and either we repeat the same usernames and passwords everywhere or we forget them and keep resetting them! (Of course, password managers exist, but for this discussion we will discuss the most commonly used ways to authenticate a user – which is the ‘username’, ‘password’ combination)

This is where the ‘concept’ of ‘Biometrics’ steps in. By making use of the distinct characteristics of a person, a user does not have to remember the usernames and passwords but can use his physical characteristics to authenticate himself. Let us see a few applications that are making use of this new concept to authenticate users in a big way:

  1. iPhone X:

I had already blogged about the new iPhone X on its release. Apple’s iPhone X  makes use of Face ID to authenticate the user. Instead of using the traditional method of passcodes or patterns to authenticate themselves, Apple’s iPhone X uses Face ID to unlock the phone(while other smart phones like Samsung Galaxy Note 8 also has biometrics to unlock, it was the iPhone X ‘s face ID that grabbed my attention) From Apple’s website, “Your face is now your password. Face ID is a secure and private new way to unlock and authenticate.”

While, face ID might be more secure than traditional passcodes on paper and the task of remembering passwords is no longer a necessity, the user experience on face ID is still up in air.

2. Aadhar:

In other Biometric applications, India’s own ‘Aadhar’ or ‘Unique Identification Authority of India’ makes use of iris scan and fingerprints for uniquely identifying the person. 

Types of Biometrics:

There are two categories of biometrics – physiological and behavioral. One example of physiological biometrics is the fingerprint scan and one example of behavioral biometric is a person’s signature.

Physiological biometrics is based on who we are – our eyes, our retina, fingerprints and so on. These are our physical characteristics. Since they do not change over time – they are the most effective means of authenticating a person.

 Behavioral biometrics  on the other hand is based on what we do – for example the way we sign our name. In order to authenticate a person, the system compares the present fingerprint or iris scan sample against stored values and appropriately authorizes a person.

We have seen ‘Biometrics’, a few applications of ‘Biometrics’ in this post. Join me as I uncover more security concepts!

Jayanthi Manikandan has an undergraduate degree in Computer Science from India and a Master’s degree in Information systems with a specialization in Information security from Detroit, MI, USA.

She has been passionate about Information security and has several years of experience writing on various technical topics. Additionally, she loves to pen a few personal thoughts here as well! 🙂

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