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The Lockdown

Thycotic’s Cyber Security Blog

What is Biometric Authentication?

Written by Thycotic Team

August 8th, 2017

Bio authentication, or biometric authentication, is a method of authentication (proving you are who you say you are) based on something biological to the human being.  Biometric authentication is another form of multi-factor authentication (providing several separate pieces of evidence proving who you are), and can be used in conjunction with another form of authentication, such as a password.

However, we’ve started to see a lot of biometric authentication in every day consumer devices such as the iPhone or Microsoft Surface. For example, iPhones allow you to unlock your phone using your fingerprint and the Surface allows you to unlock the tablet using your camera and facial recognition.

In biometrics there are two major groups: What you are, and how you behave.

Biometric Types

These are characteristics of your person that are unique to you, that you were born with, and are nearly impossible to change outside of major damage or surgical procedures.  These would include things like your fingerprints, DNA, and retinal patterns.

Behavioral biometric types are things such as voice patterns, walking patterns, and writing characteristics.  These are things you often see on episodes of CIS when they are attempting to profile and identify a criminal based on clues left behind.  However, it’s not uncommon to see these types of biometrics (more so on the voice pattern side) being used to identify someone along with another form of authentication.

When more than one biometric method is used to authenticate an individual (such as a retina scan with a palm print) it is referred to as the multimodal biometric system.

In many cases people are afraid of having their fingerprints, DNA, or other biometrics stored in a central system.

Why is adoption not greater?

This sounds a lot easier than remembering a password to enter a system, so why aren’t seeing wide spread adoption of this?  Well, for one, biometric authentication systems are usually quite expensive and must be maintained really well.  Second, in order to authenticate you first have to provide your biometric to begin with, and in many cases people are afraid of having their fingerprints, DNA, or other biometrics stored in a central system that could be subject to compromise.

Also, it’s harder to get around a system (and possibly for the better) if the system fails to authenticate you—it’s not going to be easy to say “Forgot my Fingerprint”.

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