Biometric identification is winning the war against passwords
Becoming the fastest way to combat theft of personal data, biometric identification also includes facial and fingerprint recognition
What is biometric identification?
Biometric identification is the process of verifying the identity of a person based on his/her physical features such as retina, iris, voice, face or the quickest: fingerprint.
The goal is for it not only to be used to access special rooms or unlock smartphones, but also in banks, hospitals, courts and identification systems such as the National Identity Document and passport.
Biometric identification is the solution to put an end to passwords
Passwords. The days of combining numbers, capital and case letters, etc. are numbered. Names of people close to you, your birthday... are an easy prey for hackers. Here we think to ourselves: are we dealing with intelligent cybercriminals or are we, in fact, not cautious at all? Maybe both? Whatever the case, we are increasingly victims of theft of private information. 7% of Spanish people state that they have been a victim of hacking. That figure put us on the top of the European list, where the average is 4%.
Theft of personal data
Besides suffering from theft of personal data, the danger lies in not realising it. According to a survey conducted by the company Affinion, 89% of users are not able to affirm that they have been victims of hacking. Furthermore, it takes us around an average of five months to realize a theft has occurred, by that time it usually is too late. Likewise, CIS shows that 54% of interviewees last year admitted that they didn’t take legal action after receiving a fraudulent message.
Types of Biometry: biometry for identifying us
In order to avoid being victims of this kind of theft, biometric systems technology has already been developed, which is already becoming common way of identifying individuals.
Biometric technology is a way to recognize people based on their physiology or behaviour following the same models used by humans to recognize other people through voice, face, or gait.
The fingerprint is the most well known method, and has been exploited for decades on the big screen and especially used when accessing mobile phones. It goes back to the 70s, when the offices of Shearson Hamil installed Identimat, an automatic identification system.
An infallible recognition system. The iris template of an individual is not altered as years go by, except in the case of injury. In order to obtain the iris template of someone, a good sample image must be taken with a special camera which, thanks to infrared illumination, diminishes the reflex of the cornea. This kind of biometric recognition offers several advantages:
- The iris is formed during gestation, so that even two genetically identical individuals have different irises.
- Each eye has a different iris template. We can identify an individual by one iris, the other, or both.
- It is protected by the cornea, which avoids its deterioration. Fingerprints, however, can become worn down.
- It has a flat shape and its structure only changes when the pupil dilates or contracts.
- It doesn't damage the eye. Effects are similar to those of a photograph taken without flash.
This identification system also carries some disadvantages:
- It relies on expensive technology.
- It is dependent on an extremely high quality image.
- Only it is reliable from a distance of no greater than two meters.
2D and 3D facial recognition
- Facial verification. Compares an image of the face with another in which we wish to identify it with. It will either be confirmed or refused by the system.
- Facial recognition. Compares the image of an unknown face with known faces to determine its identity.
2D capturing equipment doesn't distinguish a face from a photograph of said face. That's why it is not considered as a fully secure control system. On the other hand, 3D includes infrared technology, so there is no point in using masks or photographs to counterfeit the face of an individual. Therefore, it is much safer.
The 3D system captures all the facial points: contours of the eyes, cheekbones, nose, mouth, and chin, as well as texture and depth. It is not affected by lighting changes and is capable of recognizing a face from different angles.
These biometric identification systems go beyond avoiding theft of personal data. They could be used to deter minors from buying alcohol, to help those suffering from prosopagnosia (difficulty in recognizing common faces, including their own) or to warning a motorist about to fall asleep at the wheel.
Concerning electronic security, Apple is a pioneer in including facial recognition technology in their iPhone.
On the other hand, experts state that the ocular system is one of the most secure methods when dealing with theft of personal data. Furthermore, investigators are already working on using voice, veins, and even heartbeat!
Veins are captured through the principle of transmittance (energy capacity) of the image, a light absorption process of the infrared spectrum. Blood composition makes the hemoglobin present in veins and capillaries of the subcutaneous zone absorb more infrared light than the muscle tissue.
The system works as follows: the equipment casts infrared light that is absorbed by the hemoglobin, creating a standard image of the veins, which is then captured by sensors. The image is stored in a database to be compared when the hand is put on the sensor again.
Several algorithms are responsible for verifying the capillaries and specific areas to be used when identifying an individual.
The heartbeat is also predicted to be used in the biometric identification systems of the future. A group of scientists from the Universidad of Buffalo recently published an article claiming to have developed a cardiac scanner which recognizes the rhythm and condition of the heart and the exact movements it makes when pumping blood. They also affirmed that these parameters cannot be counterfeited.
Most importantly they tested that this method has the possibility of realizing an ongoing authentication in real time. Despite that the technology is still in the trial phase, researchers are already planning to pitch it to Apple and Microsoft in the near future.
Main applications of Biometry
Both large companies and small startups are already working to improve these systems. For example, the app Biocryptology offers secure access to our contents through biometric identification.The magazine Forbes has ranked it as the final solution to identity theft. The appa allows users to identify themselves by his/her biometric data both online and in their immediate surroundings. Also, it stores the information about him/her in different places to make it difficult to fully access this information from a single point. It has been developed in Madrid by a group of international researchers.
Another interesting initiative is Electronic ID. Based in Madrid, they work with 40 companies. It allows the recognition of individuals remotely through the system’s “identity confidence” without installing an app.
The Institute of Cybersecurity (INCIBE) notes that biometric identification systems offer a higher level of protection against crime than the traditional systems. Biometric data is universal, singular, and unchangeable over time. Which method will prove to be the final and most reliable? The technology’s own development will answer this question.