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What is Biometric Authentication?

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  • Written By: Carol Francois
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 01 December 2016
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Biometric authentication is the process of using a unique physical or behavioral trait as a method to confirm the identity and determine the access profile of a person. This type of identification has greatly increased in popularity with the advent of faster computer processors and increased accuracy in the data collection devices. Common examples include fingerprint scanning and voice activated locks.

There are two types of authentication that use biometrics: physiological and behavioral. Physiological biometrics are based on a unique physical trait, such as a fingerprint, a palm print, DNA, or face recognition. In this type of system, a scan of the trait is taken at a secured site and connected to the profile of the person. Security rights are assigned to this profile, based on the person's job or security access level. This information is stored in a secured system connected directly to the individual locks or security stations.

In order to gain access to a specific space or resource, the person must present the correct physical trait to the scanner. The system then compares the sample to the database. Only when a match is obtained can the person obtain the requested access. The strength in this type of biometric authentication is the truly unique trait that must be used to gain access. It is very difficult to fake a fingerprint or face to bypass security.

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Behavior authentication is based on the actual behavior of the person. Common examples of this type of authentication include voice, gait, and speaking rhythm or diction. While it is fairly easy to mimic the sound of another person's voice, the actual tone or note of their speech is much harder to duplicate. This type of security is most often used to access computer files or other system maintained security.

The type of data collected and stored depends on the application and the intended use. For example, a business can install fingerprint scanners at every building, and staff must scan their fingers to gain access to the facility. This is a very simple use of the technology, and the cost of the individual scanners is steadily decreasing over time.

Using the very same system, the employer can decide to track additional information from this activity. For example, the software can be expanded to record the date and time the person scanned his or her fingerprint. It can also be programmed to look for patterns, such as the same people scanning in and out of the buildings on a recurring basis. The length of time spent in each building, as well as the other buildings accessed within the same time period, can also be tracked.

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clintflint
Post 3

I think that eventually it's going to come down to them scanning nerves or arteries in order to determine if a person is who they say they are. The shape of those systems is unique to every person, and I imagine they would be extremely difficult to fake if you were trying to get past a biometric security system.

indigomoth
Post 2

@browncoat - Well, they do use it in the real world, so I assume there are solutions to these sorts of problems. I imagine it would actually be difficult to get someone to say a whole password, for example, if it's a decent password, unusual with lots of letters and numbers, and it's actually harder than it seems on TV to splice together different words so they would work on a real biometric authentication device.

Still, I think we aren't far off every cell phone having either a voice activation or a fingerprint activation. I like to think they can then code the phone with passwords, because it would be lovely to be able to just use a fingerprint to get into all the different sites that require passwords.

browncoat
Post 1

My problem with the voice authentication systems is that I just don't think they are reliable, because the human voice isn't reliable. What if the person is feeling hoarse that day, or what if they experience a drop in tone? Men's voices seem to get deeper and deeper as they get older, for example. I've lost my voice several times from being sick as well. At that point, would I just not be able to access my files? Finally, I think it is the easiest thing in the world to get someone's voice. I mean, all you'd have to do is to trick them into saying whatever the password is on the phone and you can record their voice.

I know there are ways around almost every kind of security, but it just seems like this one is a bit weaker than most.

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