The Use of Biometric Technology in Security

Biometrics to become the mainstay of identity verification in civilian applications.


The use of biometric technology for access control has gained acceptance in the industry and by the public for applications where verification of identity or authentication is required. Security industry surveys report that about 75 percent of those polled currently use biometrics or plan to...


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The use of biometric technology for access control has gained acceptance in the industry and by the public for applications where verification of identity or authentication is required.

Security industry surveys report that about 75 percent of those polled currently use biometrics or plan to use biometrics in the future.

The fact that multiple factor authentications has been mandated by the Federal Government’s Department of Homeland Security essentially guarantees that biometrics will soon become the mainstay of identity verification in more and more civilian applications.

Automated identity verification has rapidly evolved since the inception of electronic access control. Keys and early mechanical single-code devices came first; however the identity of the key holder or code user could not be verified. Additionally keys could be lost or duplicated, memorized keypad codes could be shared, and the overhead associated with traditional keyed locks and the difficulty in achieving comprehensive and high levels of security management fostered the development of better solutions.

Next, encoded credentials and proprietary keyways were introduced. Each credential had unique encoding and the keys were difficult to duplicate without authorization. The credentials themselves used proprietary construction and formatting which made counterfeiting no longer a big concern. Encoded cards using magstripe, proximity and Weigand technologies. are well established and will continue to be the mainstays in access control.

However even with an encoded credential and a unique P.I.N. (Personal Identification Number, the identity of the individual in possession of the credential and code still was not guaranteed.

Herein lies the value of biometric technology in automated identity management. The operative word here is ‘automated.’ In situations where live security personnel are used, such as airports, your identity will be verified by the traditional method of having you remove your shoes, coat, belt, wristwatch, loose change, jacket, pacemaker; and you are carefully compared to a state or federally issued hologram imbedded, hermetically sealed photo ID. It’s a pretty good system, but it will be better with multiple factor authentication.

BIOMETRICS: WHAT IS IT?

“Biometrics” is the utilization of unique physical characteristics to verify the identity of people. Fingerprints, faces, veins, voices, and retina and iris patterns all have unique characteristics that can be quantified and stored digitally. Once a person’s unique attributes are converted into a digital template, that template can be stored and later retrieved to verify the person’s identity.

Unlike keys, PIN numbers, picture IDs, magnetic swipe and “smart” cards, biometric-derived identities cannot be transferred to another person, stolen, copied or counterfeited. Therefore, the application of biometric technology greatly reduces or eliminates the opportunity for identity theft and its consequences for the safety and security of individuals, organizations and even countries.

MEASURING MAN

The attributes of fingerprints, hands, veins, voices, faces, irises, retinas and even signatures and keystrokes all lend themselves to being measured, digitized, stored, retrieved and matched in order to verify someone’s identity. They have varying degrees of reliability and applicability, depending on the application; costs to implement; technology limitations and site variables such as: lighting, noise, weather, stress and other factors. The following are among the advantages of biometrics.

RELIABILITY: Improved technology results in fewer hardware failures and security lapses. Reader throughput rivals keypad and credential based system speeds.

CONVENIENCE: Newer biometrics are less intimidating than earlier efforts, with less body contact, no laser beams in the eye and no hygiene issues. This makes the biometric interface more user-friendly.

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