Biometric Data Security: Advancements and Concerns

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Read more about author Ben Hartwig.

Biometrics was once a novelty reserved for spy movies and top-secret government facilities. Today, we carry it in our pockets and use it for mundane things like signing into Facebook. While biometric data security technology offers advantages not available through conventional passwords, it also has unique privacy risks and limitations.

What Is Biometric Data?

Biometrics is an umbrella term for many different technologies, including fingerprints, facial recognition, iris scans, voice recognition, and much more. Anything that uses your unique bodily characteristics for authentication falls under biometrics.

The technology has advanced to recognize individual behavioral markers such as walking patterns, handwriting, mouse activity, or touchscreen behavior. This allows biometric monitoring to work passively during user activity to ensure the right person is always in control.

How Important Is Biometric Data?

Biometrics is a popular authentication method in personal and professional sectors due to how it shores up the weaknesses of traditional options. Biometrics cannot be shared or lazily crafted like passwords, nor can they be stolen from your person like passkeys or other authentication tokens.

This level of certainty during authentication is invaluable to organizations worldwide. The weakest link and most viable attack option for cybercriminals has always been low-level employees. Attackers use social engineering and malware to steal login credentials and break into a device.

These targets are generally easier to trick and provide basic access for a hacker to penetrate deeper into a system. Biometrics prevent the hacker’s entry, even if they steal an employee’s login info.

Biometric readings are more challenging to replicate and are more convenient than other forms of multi-factor authentication like email or separate applications. Additionally, since it’s tied to your physiology, there’s no risk of forgetting or losing it.

Implementing Biometrics into Your Business

Integrating biometrics into your business isn’t as simple as buying a fingerprint scanner and being done with it. The technology must be implemented alongside access controls and hardware within your existing cybersecurity infrastructure.

Regulatory Compliance

The most crucial step is to ensure you’re within legal and regulatory compliance for your region. Each state and country will have different barriers to entry and ways of handling biometric privacy.

Notably, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requires explicit consent when processing biometric data. Various states like Illinois and Texas also have provisions surrounding the use of biometric data, so pay attention to local laws.

Most of these regulations revolve around obtaining explicit user consent or transparency in using biometric data. Get permission during training, and properly educate your employees on the process.

Choosing the Right Biometric Authentication

Deciding which form of biometrics to use for your business depends on your industry, the required level of security, and day-to-day. Not every business needs a 99.9% accurate pupil tracker or handwriting analysis software.

  • Fingerprints: Use for tasks like attendance tracking, device access, and POS systems. These scanners are cost-effective and suitable for a variety of settings.
  • Facial Scanning: Preferred for surveillance, customer engagement, and personal device authentication. As the hardware can be expensive, accurate facial scanning can be difficult to implement.
  • Iris and Retina Scanning: High-level access control tools typically reserved for more secure operations. These options are highly accurate but have significant upfront and upkeep costs.

There are many other forms of biometric authenticators, and you should think about the cost benefits of each one. How hard are they to implement, and how consistently would they be used? Consider the realistic applications of biometrics in your daily operations before committing to the choice.

Partnering with a reputable and well-reviewed biometric service is also essential. Most businesses don’t need a government-grade scanner, but it should read well enough not to slow down operations. Nothing wastes more time than not being able to access a device or application because the fingerprint scanner is failing to authenticate you.

Maintaining the Infrastructure

It’s essential to interact regularly with your biometric systems. Delete users who are no longer working with your business and update permissions when necessary. Stick to the Principle of Least Privilege (PoLP), which is a security concept that ensures nobody has access permissions outside of what’s required for their job.

Finally, all biometric data should be encrypted in secure storage. Doing so prevents unauthorized access, and even if your systems are breached, it remains unreadable with the exact key.

Disadvantages of Biometric Data

Recording biometric data presents several considerations. As with any private information, privacy concerns come up, along with risks of misuse or unauthorized access. This is compounded by the fact that, unlike other authentication factors, biometric data cannot be changed. There is no “forgot password” button to press and update a breached credential.

Secondly, biometric accuracy can vary depending on the device or measurement type. There’s a possibility of false positives that impact the overall reliability of your security. This weakness is easily solved by pairing biometrics with another form of multi-factor authentication, but it may slow down your daily operations. The primary point is to use biometric data as a small part of your overall security infrastructure.

Always Maintain Safety When Using or Sharing Biometric Data

Biometric data security meets at the intersection of convenience and safety. It’s become an irreplaceable part of many professional sectors and helps with everything from fraud prevention to national security. However, the technology is accompanied by its fair share of concerns.

The most effective way to safeguard against biometric data’s weaknesses is to implement it with other features. Multi-factor authentication, password managers, and employee training shouldn’t be neglected just because you’re using a fancy retinal scanner.

As technology advances and as businesses and individuals adapt, biometric data security will continue to play a pivotal role in safeguarding sensitive information and ensuring a more secure digital future.