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The Importance of Biometrics in a Digital World


The emerging era of IoT allows the seamless connectivity for everything we do today. As we move to embrace digitalisation in an age where everything becomes connected, the question of security will always be on our minds. Be it for smart homes, smart vehicles or even our growing number of online transactions, security will remain a key factor for all of us.

For years, passwords have been the most common answer to online security. But even with passwords, the secure feeling we have towards our assets, be it physical or data is still not convincing enough. Cybercriminals can gain access to our passwords, either through sheer brute force, malware or social engineering methods. And the technologies available to help them achieve their goals are continuously improving.

We have been made to create more unique passwords using various characters, yet we still find cybercriminals being able to overwrite them. Two-step authentications then came into play, whereby we combined a password with authentication codes sent to an electronic device, normally our mobile phones, to be used to get clearance.

Now, biometrics can also be used for two-step authentications. Biometric security uses physical authentication together with passwords to create a more secure environment. The most commonly used biometrics method is the finger or thumbprint scanner. The prints on our fingers and thumbs have been used for years in almost all types of identification documents and processes. So, it only fits that technology uses this security as well.

Apart from fingers, biometrics is now also available through retinal scans, facial recognition and even palm scanning methods. Some mobile devices are already using biometrics such as fingerprints and facial scans for access. But what about other connected devices? What about smart cars and smart homes? Should these apply biometrics as a safety feature as well?

HID Global is one such company that specialises in biometrics. Its latest fingerprint reader can increase image capture performance and fingerprint matching in under a second, significantly reducing delays that were previously symptomatic of biometric solutions.

According to Alex H.K. Tan, Director of Sales, ASEAN, Physical Access Control, HID’s multispectral imaging technology captures images from both the surface and sub-surface of the skin so that all types of fingerprints, from people of any age, can be read quickly and reliably in cold, dry, dirty, wet and other challenging environmental conditions.

This, coupled with trusted liveness detection for spoof prevention, enables the iCLASS SE RB25F reader to provide real-time validation that fingerprints are genuine and belong to a living person who is physically present at the authentication point. To maximise security, the reader includes built-in optical tamper protection, supports the Open Supervised Device Protocol (OSDP), as well as HID’s Seos® technology for multi-layered authentication between the reader and credentials.

In the case of smart homes or smart cars, finger scanners can be used to authenticate owners. The same technology can also be used on other IoT devices as well. Be it at home or even for business. Alex pointed out that while businesses are looking to cybersecurity companies to secure their data, they still lack the knowledge on the importance of keeping their IoT devices secure.

“General users only know the outcome of IoT devices. They do not think of the security portion nor the manner of service deliverance. Is it safe? Are they compliant with regulations?”

For companies, Alex added it goes down to education when it comes to security on IoT devices. “A lot of employees put this as an IT issue. But it is not, it is everyone’s problem. The awareness is low. It is costly, not just monetarily but the time to research and get awareness and information is not easy. It’s gaining traction, but we’re still at the surface level. Adding to that, company policies are not properly enforced.”

Alex feels that the need for physical verification within two-step authentication in IoT devices is still the best. Biometrics has its use cases in physical security. Even from a virtual perspective, biometrics can be used to secure access to things such as sensors based on algorithms and multispectral technology.

Biometric data stored in the Seos card can carry back on credentials. HID’s Seos tech can reside on both physical and digital space. Alex suggested that this tech should be injected onto phones, tablets, and other connected devices. This is because it is scalable to both physical or virtual, which eventually creates trust both on physical and virtual.

And with trust comes feelings of safety and security. It also eliminates problems of spoofing which is commonly faced during authentication. At the moment, fingerprint biometric scanning is the most widely utilised and applied in many verticals. It may not be the safest, but it’s the most used. However, it is always better to have two-factor authentication.