Biometrics Authentication & Identification: Replacing Passwords in Near Future

Biometrics offers substantial security benefits to the average consumer — including greater protection from identity theft, data theft and possibly even financial fraud. It is substantially more secure for privacy protection than using a basic password or four digit personal identification number (PIN). Since its inception, passwords have been the default credential for human authentication. From our personal computers to e-mails, from application software to online banking, passwords are compulsory to authenticate ourselves. In short, passwords are part and parcel of our daily lives. Although, the use of passwords could be argued as the most commonly used authentication tactic, they have a lot of security and maintenance challenges. Biometric authentication overcomes some of the major challenges we usually observe in a user ID and password based authentication system.

The surge in use of biometric technology for individual identification has managed to touch virtually every market in the world. Biometrics are slowly replacing passwords, personal identification numbers (PINs), plastic ID cards and other forms of what are considered antiquated and unsecure methods of authentication. Security analysts say user IDs and passwords became archaic and obsolete as they can be easily compromised by easily available online tools, also true for locks and keys of our home.

Apple released the iPhone 5s in mid-2013 and brought biometric technology into the mainstream through its Touch ID individual identification capabilities. This deployment made some researchers believe that our physical or behavioral traits such as a fingerprint, palm vein, iris, face, or voice print will at some point replace the overused and insecure passwords (e.g. ‘abcdef’ or ‘123456’). Apple’s entry into the biometrics identity management market could be the tipping point for consumerization of biometric technology leading to the beginning of the end of personal identification numbers (PINs) and passwords.

In every aspect, biometric identification is stronger than traditional user ID and password based identification because it cannot be easily compromised by criminals using brute-force computing. It’s nearly impossible for hackers to steal and reverse engineer fingerprint images (a practice routinely done with computer files containing millions of passwords) because all biometric temples stored in a database are protected through strong encryption technology. Biometrics may slowly get a foothold as the default method of individual identification and old-fashioned passwords are going to fade away any time soon.

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