Biometric Authentication

What is Biometric Authentication? 

Biometric authentication is a method that measures a user’s biological characteristics to verify their identity. It compares physical and behavioral traits against biometric data stored in a database to determine that a user is who they claim to be. Organizations can use biometric authentication to grant access to physical and digital resources. 

It’s important to note that biometric identification and biometric authentication, while related, are not interchangeable. Biometric identification uses biometrics such as fingerprints or retina scans to identify a person; and biometric authentication uses biometrics to verify a person. 

Stages of Biometric Authentication

  • Enrollment – Organizations first capture, store, and “enroll” an individual’s biometric data in their database.
  • Recognition – Once an organization has enrolled a subject’s data (known as a model), they can compare newly acquired biometric data (known as a probe) against it to generate a match score. Organizations then use the match score to determine whether the user is who they claim to be.

Types of Biometric Authentication

Organizations can use any of the following technologies to digitally identify users or grant them access to a digital resource: 

  • Iris recognition systems capture a picture or video of a user’s eye to locate the boundaries of the iris and process it. This process provides a distinct and concise representation of a user’s iris, which an organization can use to identify and authenticate the user.
  • Retina recognition systems analyze the blood vessels at the back of a user’s eye to identify them.
  • Fingerprint scanning leverages a user’s fingerprints to identify and authenticate users.
  • Face scanning analyzes a user’s facial features to identify and authenticate them.
  • DNA matching uses genetic material to determine a subject’s identity.
  • Signature recognition systems use pattern recognition technology to identify and verify subjects based on their written signature.
  • Finger geometry recognition measures the distances between various parts of the subject’s hand to verify identity.
  • Finger vein ID uses the veins in a user’s finger to verify identity.
  • Voice ID verifies a user’s identity using their voice.

Components of Biometric Authentication 

There are three vital components of biometric authentication: 

  • A reader or scanning device, to measure and capture biometric data;
  • Software, to process and convert the data to compare it against match points in pre-collected biometric data; and,
  • Databases, where biometric data is stored. Organizations typically link biometric databases to central servers where all their information is stored.

The Future of Biometric Authentication

As traditional username and password authentication grows increasingly untenable in the face of credential stuffing and similar attack techniques, biometric authentication has emerged as a secure but accessible alternative. Most major phone manufacturers and applications already use facial and fingerprint recognition to authenticate users without passwords. Biometric authentication is only likely to increase in popularity as users grow frustrated with creating and storing passwords for their ever-increasing number of digital identities. 

For more essential cybersecurity definitions, check out our other blogs below:  

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Biometric Authentication
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