Intro to Biometric Passwords
Biometric password: making you the password. Here’s how biometric logins are more secure and remove the need to memorize a password.
What is a biometrics login? A biometric login uses an individual’s unique biometrics to verify they are who they say they are and to log them into their account, whether that be a work account, mobile banking or other login.
What are Biometrics and Biometric Passwords?
Biometrics are specific human characteristics that we can capture and use as an authentication method in IT systems. Biometric password examples include:
- Fingerprint Scanning
- Facial Recognition
- Voice Authentication
- Iris or Retina Scanning
- Typing Recognition
- DNA Matching
- Ear Shape Matching
- Signature Recognition
Biometric data is collected from users physically through a scanner or a camera equipped with recording and recognition software. This means that the user must be present to provide this information, and they must be present to authenticate at a physical location like a workstation or smart device.
Because these physical characteristics are unique, they can be used as a form of authentication. They don’t replace other forms of identification, however, including the use of passwords. Therefore, many systems will use what is called a “biometric password” which combines both biometrics and passwords to authenticate users.
With a biometric password, the user provides physical evidence of identity to a scanner–placing their finger on a fingerprint scanner, for example. The system takes that information and compares it against their digital ID information. If there is a match, then the system will pull the user’s password from a keychain and use the password to authenticate the user on an application or other device.
While this seems unnecessarily complex, it actually allows users to more readily access systems they have credentials for without having to remember or manage passwords themselves.
What are the Benefits of Using a Biometric Password?
If you’re configuring identity and access management for your IT infrastructure, biometrics bring quite a few advantages to the table that make them a worthwhile investment:
- A lower barrier of use for employees: People forget passwords, or manage them poorly, and put a burden on your IT team for retrieval and resetting. With a biometric password, the user is literally their own authentication. It’s convenient, quick and accurate, especially if your company provides standardized equipment like smartphones with scanners and cameras.
- An improved IAM security infrastructure: Again, passwords are problematic. They get stolen, lost or hacked. Additionally, according to studies, phishing is still one of the most prevalent origins for system hacks, malware and ransomware.
- An effective part of compliance: Many compliance frameworks call for Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) at certain levels of security. An effective biometric password system can serve as part of comprehensive MFA services in your system. Industries like payment processing, finance and healthcare are already using biometric passwords as part of MFA schemas.
- A great way to promote scalability: Biometrics are flexible once implemented, able to work with workstations, smartphones, mobile devices and a variety of applications and services. You can support scaling in your organization without compromising security or compliance along the way.
- A reduced overhead on IT and lost productivity: A biometric security system can, depending on the scale and applications used, cost more upfront than a vanilla password security solution. As a 2019 study from Forrester notes 25%-40% of all help desk calls are for password-related problems. Verizon reported that in 2017, the cost of resetting passwords through Microsoft cloud environments and devices cost over $12M in support expenses. Biometrics can mitigate a lot of this shadow IT cost due to lost passwords.
Properly managed and implemented biometrics can provide real value to leadership in IT and compliance precisely because it eliminates the need for direct user involvement in managing the security process. All they need is to be physically present to verify their identity and they can access the resources they need to do their work.
What Are the Risks of Relying Strictly on Biometric Passwords?
Biometric passwords are not infallible, however, and it’s necessary to understand security gaps that might arise from relying too heavily on biometrics on their own:
- Biometrics can be bypassed: Chinese hackers found a way to hack fingerprint biometrics using nothing more than a phone app, $142 in hardware, and an imprint of a user’s fingerprint. While biometrics are typically strong, they are also vulnerable in specific ways.
- Biometric passwords are still passwords: If a user provides a weak password or gives it away in a phishing attack, then the hacker can still get into the system if they can bypass the biometric authentication measures (which, as we’ve seen, they can).
- Not every system uses biometrics: If your organization uses a diverse ecosystem of devices and platforms, they may not use biometric hardware or software in the same way.
- Biometrics can be hacked: Biometric data, like any other data, can be stolen through a database hack. Once that happens, then it doesn’t matter if the user is physically present or not–the hacker can trick the system with the data that they have.
- Biometrics can’t be changed: If a user’s facial recognition data has been compromised, you can’t simply change that information to secure the account–their face is still their face, and it hasn’t changed. In incidents where security data is breached, it could be the case that you need to switch to some other form of biometric authentication or another approach to MFA.
The truth is that your leadership team might see biometric passwords as the end-all, be-all of security and compliance. But not all are created, and solutions like 1Kosmos BlockID address many of the shortcomings of biometrics with innovative technology and implementation.
Implementing Biometrics With the BlockID Identity Management Platform
1Kosmos BlockID is the only standards-based and passwordless authentication identity platform that uses biometrics and blockchain technology to create an indisputable identity for continuous authentication. We accomplish this through a combination of innovative techniques and technologies:
- Identity Proofing: BlockID includes Identity Assurance Level 2 (NIST 800-63A IAL2) detects fraudulent or duplicate identities and establishes or reestablishes credential verification.
- Identity-Based Authentication Orchestration: We push biometrics and authentication into a new paradigm of “who you are”. That is, BlockID uses biometrics to identify individuals, not devices, through identity credential triangulation and validation.
- Integration with MFA: BlockID readily integrates with standard-based API to operating systems, applications and MFA infrastructure at AAL2.
- Cloud Native Architecture: Flexible and scalable cloud architecture makes it simple to build applications using our standard API, which includes utilizing private blockchains.
- Privacy by Design: 1Kosmos protects PII in a private blockchain and encrypts digital identities in secure enclaves only accessible through advanced biometric verification.
Learn more about 1Kosmos Passwordless Enterprise authentication. Also remember to sign up for our newsletter to stay abreast of 1Kosmos products, events and updates.