What is Biometric Encryption?

Robert MacDonald

Modern authentication has involved the use of biometric data for years. However, maintaining privacy without sacrificing security has remained a challenge.

What is biometric encryption? Biometric encryption uses biometric data to encrypt and decrypt security keys to maintain user privacy and security.

How Does Biometric Encryption Work?

Biometric encryption is the use of a biometric template combined with a key for use as a method of authentication. This approach relies on the uniqueness of biometrics to ensure that hackers cannot reverse-engineer a password or key.

The process of biometric encryption includes:

  • Key Generation: The system will create a digital key when the user enrolls, distinct from a password or PIN. The user then provides their sample (a fingerprint scan, for example), which is bound to that digital key to creating a new “private template” that represents the key encrypted using the biometric itself but cannot be reversed into either the key or the original biometric.
  • Verification: When users seek verification, they provide their biometric sample. This sample serves as the decryption key that decrypts the original digital key.
  • Application: The released key can now be used as part of an application, either as a password or as an identifier for a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) certificate system.

In this process, biometrics can remain on private, local machines (like a mobile device) without disclosing unwanted private information.

What Are the Benefits of Biometric Encryption?

The benefits of biometric encryption invoke the strengths of both strong encryption and biometric authentication. Security experts planned the creation of this encryption process to help minimize attack surfaces involved in authentication, namely the storage of biometric information or the use of passwords.

Some of these benefits include:

  • Privacy: Biometric storage presents a significant ethical and security challenge for organizations, both centered around the undesirable practice of storing large quantities of private biological information in a single place. Biometric authentication helps mitigate that by removing the need to store biometrics in a server.
  • Security: Biometrics is generally considered far more secure than traditional passwords. Biometric authentication adds a layer of protection by foregoing the need to store or transmit a password or biometric template.
  • Speed: Biometrics are simply easier to use. With the proliferation of scanners and cameras, it’s almost impossible not to have some device that can process biometric data. Accordingly, users can have faster and more reliable access to secure authentication without remembering passwords.
  • Compliance: Biometrics, including encrypted biometrics, are typically specified as an acceptable (often necessary) part of most security and compliance frameworks.

Is Biometric Encryption the Same as Private Biometrics?

Private biometrics, or encrypted biometrics, uses encryption algorithms to obfuscate biometric information while rendering it searchable. Algorithms using machine-learning-driven transformations involving encrypted feature vectors render the biometric data entirely unintelligible for humans while still useful as an authentication and identity verification tool.

Biometric encryption addresses two challenges with biometrics more broadly:

  1. It’s generally considered unsafe to have biometric information in a database, serving as a honeypot for potential attacks. Stolen biometric data is a massive security concern, not the least, because it would allow hackers to undermine MFA and biometric authentication systems potentially.
  2. Stored, centralized databases of personal and biological information present an ethical problem where data privacy and ownership run up against commercial concerns.

The suggested solution is to encrypt biometric data so that it cannot be publicly revealed to organizations managing authentication databases.

However, the challenges come when you consider the biggest application of biometrics–identification.

Private biometric methods ensure that the biometric template remains helpful in that capacity by utilizing an irreversible encryption process to render the template data much more minor and utterly unrelated to the original data. This encrypted information, however, is readily searchable in an authentication database and just as useful for authentication.

The benefit of this practice is that it allows users to continue to use biometric authentication without disclosing their private biological data–a key concern for privacy and human rights activities that worry about growing databases of personal biological data.

1Kosmos BlockID: Encryption and Biometrics for Modern Authentication

Biometrics are a staple of modern authentication, but depending on their implementation, they aren’t perfect. They can be spoofed or stolen, risking the security of user accounts and enterprise systems. With 1Kosmos, you can deploy biometrics bound to the user at the time of identity verification. Our biometrics ensure the user is the same user that initially enrolled their account. It can be no other. There is no possibility of compromise – can’t be stolen or spoofed.

With 1Kosmos, you can leverage biometrics and strong, decentralized authentication using the following features:

  • SIM Binding: The BlockID application uses SMS verification, identity proofing, and SIM card authentication to create solid, robust, and secure device authentication from any employee’s phone.
  • Identity-Based Authentication: We push biometrics and authentication into a new “who you are” paradigm. BlockID uses biometrics to identify individuals, not devices, through credential triangulation and identity verification.
  • Cloud-Native Architecture: Flexible and scalable cloud architecture makes it simple to build applications using our standard API and SDK.
  • Identity Proofing: BlockID verifies identity anywhere, anytime and on any device with over 99% accuracy.
  • Privacy by Design: Embedding privacy into the design of our ecosystem is a core principle of 1Kosmos. We protect personally identifiable information in a distributed identity architecture and the encrypted data is only accessible by the user.
  • Private and Permissioned Blockchain: 1Kosmos protects personally identifiable information in a private and permissioned blockchain, encrypts digital identities, and is only accessible by the user. The distributed properties ensure no databases to breach or honeypots for hackers to target.
  • Interoperability: BlockID can readily integrate with existing infrastructure through its 50+ out-of-the-box integrations or via API/SDK.

If you’re ready to learn about BlockID and how it can help you remain compliant and secure, learn more about what it takes to Go Beyond Passwordless Solutions. Make sure you sign up for the 1Kosmos email newsletter for updates on products and events.

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Meet the Author

Robert MacDonald

Vice President of Product Marketing

Robert is the Vice President of Product Marketing at 1Kosmos. He is a highly influential senior global marketer with more than 15 years of marketing experience in B2B and B2C software in the biometric authentication space. Prior to 1Kosmos, Rob managed product strategy and vision for the Identity and Access Management portfolio at Micro Focus, leading a team of product marketers to drive sales and support the channel. Earlier in his career he set the foundation for content planning, sales enablement and GTM activities for ForgeRock. He has also held senior marketing positions at Entrust, Dell, Quest and Corel Corporation.