biometric-security-door-scanner-access-controlHave you been somewhere where you have had your fingerprints scanned before you entered? Or had your photo taken? Many of us have experienced these security measures at the likes of airports, but what about your own home or business?

Biometrics refers to metrics related to human characteristics.

Biometrics authentication (or realistic authentication) is used in computer science as a form of identification and access control. Otherwise known as biometric security.

Biometric identifiers are the distinctive, measureable characteristics used to label and describe individuals. These can be broken down into 2 groups.

– Physiological
Related to the shape of the body. For example fingerprints, palm veins, face recognition, DNA, palm print, hand geometry, iris recognition, retina and odour/scent.

– Behavioural
Pattern of behaviour of a person. For example, typing rhythm, voice recognition and the way a person moves.

Fingerprint scanners to obtain access are also getting more common, particularly in digital form. Smart devices such as iPhones and iPads now have them built into their products which are widely available to the public.

News stories this month have announced that the huge increase in orders of small format fingerprint readers is largely down to Apple as more companies are trying to catch up with the access technology. Due to the number of orders it is likely that fingerprint technology will be included in a wide range of products by the end of this year.

Original access control was based on identification and knowledge based systems. For example, a passport, driving license and passwords.  Biometric security access seems to be taking over.

Physical access control has incorporated biometrics as ways of literally opening doors, where previously there would have been a key-card or pin code involved. The clear upside to this is that you can’t just leave your fingerprints behind or forget their code, making biometrics much quicker and more convenient. Similarly, you can’t just give your facial features to someone. They are unique to each person, keeping the access more reliable and secure.

In another news report this month, a group of 2000 young people between the age of 16 and 24 were asked about their thoughts on the future of security, with the general consensus being that passwords will be replaced by biometrics by the year 2020.
When asked about biometric security, 70% of them would be happy to use fingerprint scanning in their daily lives for access, making payments etc in place of traditional passwords. Retina scans were also popular, with 39% of the group feeling comfortable with this option. Facial recognition was also accepted with 27%.

Other types of biometric security did not resonate as well with the group. Voice recognition came out with the least interest at just 12%, failing to sound as secure as the other options. Fast DNA samples and implanted chips were also unpopular at just 15% – the clearly more intrusive of the options. These opinions highlight some of the disadvantages with biometric security, particularly the feeling that they are a breach of privacy.

Although not as yet a serious issue, there is the question of hacking and if this information could be stolen. Current fingerprint readers do not store copies of your fingerprint, they simply store the way of reading it. This means your fingerprint cannot be extracted from the system and used elsewhere.

Experts advise that although biometric security is indeed secure, it should not be your only wall of defence. For high level security it is a good idea to build up your lines of defence by using more than one of the following.

– A password (something you know)
– A biometric (something you are)
– A physical device (something you have)

As these biometric security systems become more common, knowledge and measures to make them as secure as possible are sure to follow. Would you be comfortable having a fingerprint scanner on your front door like the sci-fi films? Or is your key fob to get into your office high tech enough for now?

If biometric security continues to advance as it currently is, these examples of access control may be much more common place in just a couple of years.