Biometrics – Are they a safe option?

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Biometrics are something that has been around for a few years and is getting more and more common to use as a security process.

They are available in various forms, a few examples are Fingerprint or voice authentication to access bank accounts, or fingerprints to unlock phones.

The big questions are what exactly are Biometrics? and are they as secure as they are promoted?

The word Biometrics is a word referring to the measurement related to human characteristics. An example being that a device can scan an iris in your eye, which has a unique pattern to you (just like fingerprints) which can then identify you as you.

 This has evolved from computers becoming intelligent enough to determine and identify our unique biological characteristics, from voice patterns to faint outlines on the tips of our fingers, doing this extremely quick and efficiently.

  4 examples of Biometric data types

  • Face recognition. Measures the unique patterns of a person’s face.
  • Iris recognition. Identifies the unique patterns of a person’s iris
  • Fingerprint scanner. Captures the unique pattern of ridges and valleys on a finger.
  • Voice recognition. Measures the unique sound waves in your voice as you speak to a device.

Are biometrics safe?

Unfortunately, like any technology, this personal information can be misused by cybercriminals, identity theft scammers, and others in the case of a data breach.

But perhaps the question we should be asking is how securely must we protect our biometrics?

The good news is, high profile data, like bank account information for example tends to protect its biometric data at a stronger level. But as biometrics are becoming more commonplace to all of us, like opening up our phones with fingerprints, for example, we are becoming more complacent with the security of them. Biometrics like these, are more likely to be stored where lower levels of safety are employed. These make very attractive targets for hackers.

Voice Hacks
Speech Synthesis, or text to speech, involves using a small sample of recordings, converted by software, which would then enable a computer to imitate a human speaker to a high enough degree of accuracy.

Fingerprint Theft
We leave fingerprints wherever we go, glasses, keyboards, door handles, and with the advent of 3-D printing, should someone wish to clone a fingerprint, providing they have a copy, it can be literally printed and stuck to the end of their finger, giving them access to your device and/or account.

How can we help to protect our Biometric data? Here are 3 common-sense ways:

  • Strong passwords mean that it’s harder to steal your data. Keeping your biometric information in only a few, limiting the places, gives hackers fewer places to breach your data.
  • Up to date Software. Keep your software current. When your device manufacturer notifies you of an available software update, install it right away to help reduce the opportunity of your device being vulnerable to security flaws.
  • If you're worried about the security of your biometric data, sometimes you can opt out of providing it. Consider a smartphone that doesn’t require fingerprint authentication or choose not to use facial recognition software. You can also disable facial recognition in your Facebook settings.

Again and again it has been shown that new technologies are not infallible, firewalls have been breached, passwords hacked and encryptions… unencrypted, there are already signs that indicate that biometrics are no different; as always, vigilance and security remain imperative.

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