Identity theft continues to be a growing crime in America. According to Javelin Strategy, nearly 15 million Americans had their identities stolen in 2021.
However, with technological advancements, preventing identity theft has become possible. For example, biometric technology has made it easier for us to protect our personal information and made it difficult for criminals to steal our identity.
Biometrics is the measurement and statistical analysis of human characteristics. It is an improved technology that helps identification, authentication, and access control.
What Are the 2 Main Types of Biometrics?
There are two main types of biometrics:
1. Physical Biometrics
Physical biometrics depends on the physiological features of a person to analyze data.
Examples of physical biometrics are:
- Facial Recognition
With this physical biometric, your identity is confirmed with your face. Details of your face like the nose, eyes and mouth are studied and recorded. The face scan software can identify you through pictures, videos or in person.
- Iris Recognition
Biometric iris recognition scanners measure the unique patterns in irises and the colored circles of a person’s eye. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, it illuminates the iris with infrared light to detect these unseen and unique patterns.
- Thermography Recognition
This method involves the capturing of your blood flow either from your hand or face with infrared cameras. There is still ongoing research on this new technology.
- Finger/Handprint Recognition
Handprint or fingerprint scanning can be used to measure and save the shape, texture and prints of your hand to identify you. The pattern of your loops, whorls and arches are recorded automatically.
- Retinal Scans
A retinal scanner is used to identify your retina through low infrared light. The retina is a layer at the back of the eyes and is unique to each human.
Other examples of physical biometrics are palm vein recognition, DNA, and facial structure.
2. Behavioral Biometrics
Behavioral biometrics are used in measuring and analyzing your identity with your behavioral features. Your cognitive behavior is used to differentiate you from criminals, thereby helping prevent identity theft or identity fraud committable with your personal data. Examples are:
- Voice Recognition
This method is based on receiving and interpreting the patterns of your voice. These patterns are recorded and used in identification.
- Gesture Recognition
Your motions and gestures are received, recorded, and interpreted with machine algorithms. These are used in identification.
- Gait Recognition
Gait recognition is used to identify you with your walking steps and characteristics like your height, age, and body weight.
Other examples are lip motion, signature recognition, and keystroke dynamics recognition.
How Do Biometrics Scanners Work?
Biometric scanners are used in capturing biometrics for the purpose of identity verification. They are used to read your identity either with your physical or physiological features. Features can include your fingerprint, your face, your voice and more.
With a saved database, a biometric scanner can verify and show your information and if you have permission to be in certain locations. Biometric scanners are mostly used for security measures, authentication, and identification.
Listed below are the ways in which biometrics is used in everyday life:
1. By Law Enforcement
Law enforcement uses biometric information to help identify and verify identities. In fact, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, law enforcement utilizes biometrics for border security, criminal investigations and background checks.
In addition, biometrics is even used in access control areas within law enforcement for security measures.
2. Security for Mobile Devices
Almost if not all mobile phones and devices are accessible with the use of fingerprint scanners or facial recognition. This development helps allow safe and monitored access for phone users.
This means that only authorized users can make use of your devices. This also works for laptops, computers, cars, televisions, etc. You can unlock your car or turn on your television at ease with voice recognition.
3. Home Security
Biometric technology has made it easier to limit access into homes. You can install scanners that can detect and prevent intrusion. This helps keep your home secure and restricts entry to your house members.
4. Identification in School/Work/Organizations
At your school or workplace, biometrics are used to give you, and authorized persons, access into the building. Schools may also use biometrics to take attendance.
Biometrics are used in banking, organizations and helping keep data safe and secure.
How Does Biometrics Help Prevent Identity Theft?
Identity theft occurs when your personal information is stolen to commit fraud. Security elements such as passwords or PINs are used in securing information, but they can be breached.
Over the years, biometrics has helped protect identity from hackers and fraudsters. Biometric identification systems cannot be lost, stolen, or misplaced. First, your features are used as the password.
Without you, your data cannot be accessed or stolen. Features such as fingerprints, facial recognition, voice, etc., are unique and can only belong to you. Because of the accuracy of these biometrics, you get to help protect your identity.
Are Biometrics Safer Than Passwords?
Yes. Biometrics such as your voice, fingerprints and DNA are considered safer and more secure than passwords. This is because they are mostly hard to crack or breach. Passwords may be stolen or can be weak, which makes them breachable.
As mentioned above, biometrics are powerful and are hard to recreate by fraudsters or hackers. Another benefit of biometrics, apart from security, is how convenient it is. It can also be used as two-factor authentication on many devices and websites.
What Are the Risks of Using Biometrics?
These are some risks involved in using biometrics. They include:
1. Breach of Data
Although biometrics are highly secure, they are sometimes breachable. Because of how biometric data is stored, it is not impossible to duplicate it and can be used to hack into devices and accounts.
As technology develops, copies of biometric data can be made, and these stolen data can be used to gain access to buildings, devices, or secure places.
2. High Cost
Investing in biometrics devices and software can be expensive to install and maintain. They are effective and efficient but might be out of reach for some.
In situations where biometrics systems are breached, it can also be expensive to recover lost information and make corrections.
3. Spoof Attacks
Spoofing is the act of disguising as another person for illegal purposes. Spoof attacks occur when a person successfully poses and identifies as someone else.
The biometrics identifiers of an authorized user, such as fingerprints and iris scans, can be used to gain access to secure data or locations.
4. Storage of Biometrics Data
Storing biometrics data involves risks. The higher the number of user data compiled, the more prone they can become to being compromised.
Organizations that keep lots of biometric data are targets of hackers and fraudsters. And once they get access to them, biometric data cannot be changed by their owners, unlike passwords.
Bottom Line on Biometrics and Identity Theft
Biometric identifications are used to increase the level of security and in identification and authentication. Biometrics can be collected through the physiological or behavioral features of a user.
Examples of these devices are optical sensors, Touch ID for scanning fingerprints, handprints, iris sensors, retina scanners and voice recognition software.
Despite biometrics being more secure than passwords or other security PINs, there are downsides to them. Biometric data can be breached and at risk of imposter and spoofing attacks. Biometrics are also expensive to set up and maintain.