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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PRICE: The cost of the hardware and the amount of technical support required to keep biometrics have dropped, thereby making the technology more feasible.

EASE OF DEPLOYMENT: Biometric systems and readers are more robust and modular; software is written to interface more readily, and the readers are designed to withstand harsh environments.

SECURITY: Our society needs the most reliable foolproof methods of identity verification it can get, and biometrics meets these requirements.

Their usefulness also depends on how much the subjects who will be required to use the system are willing to cooperate. Here is a rundown on the various types of biometric identification.

Facial recognition. This one is a non-contact technique whose technology is rapidly coming of age as video analytics and IP gain control of the realm of CCTV video.

Iris recognition is one of the most accurate biometrics currently available, but requires physical contact between the subject and the reader appliance which many find objectionable; and uses a light source which many fear will damage their vision.

Retina recognition has a high degree of precision, but is considered one of the more intrusive biometric technologies.

Hand recognition has achieved a high deployment in biometric applications and achieves high performance levels because it can measure various features of the hand in order to develop a template.

Vein recognition systems are not readily available yet, but offer a level of precision similar to iris recognition technology.

Voice, signature and keystroke reliability depend on the subject’s stress level, ambient noise level, illness, etc., and also are more vulnerable to defeat.

Fingerprint recognition is the most widely deployed biometric identifier because it is reliable and easy to deploy.


Physical access control – Biometric identification can help separate the authorized from the unauthorized and make certain that only the “right” people come through the door – or go out.

Network security and electronic transactions – Identity thieves can gain unauthorized access to valuable information and/or financial resources, causing identity theft to become a pervasive and vexing problem. Biometric identification can prevent unauthorized access to computer networks and the information they contain.

Tracking time, attendance and materials – Biometric identification minimizes the mistakes and fraud when checking in, punching a time clock and making the rounds. Biometrics can help maintain the “chain of custody” for handling evidence and other sensitive or classified materials.


In August of 2004, President Bush signed a 724-word document titled HSPD-12 which put forth the idea of an inter-agency which would recognize and secure a reliable form of identification to control physical access in federal facilities, and logical access to federally controlled information systems. Within six months, the original two-page directive proliferated into hundreds of pages of instructions all based on a new standard called the Federal Information Processing Standard 201, Personal Identity Verification of Federal Employees and Contractors (FIPS-201).

Among its stipulations is the requirement for a biometric component in each card. In addition to a photograph, templates of two fingerprints must be used when the card is presented to a biometric-enabled card reader, and the user punches in a P.I.N. This scheme provides three factor authentication: requiring something the individual has (the credential); something the individual knows (the P.I.N.); and something that is part of him (a fingerprint).

The technology is reaching out to include more applications than ever before. These include:

Prison Visitor Systems: Verifying prisoners and visitors so that identities cannot be switched and escapes effected.

Drivers’ Licenses: Eliminates licensing abuses especially among commercial drivers.

Vendor cards: For meal and related expenses on campus; streamlines billing and stops abuses.

Border Control: A growing concern, qualified travelers are expedited through checkpoints.

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