Ensuring the security of biometric data

Ensuring the security of biometric data

Security tools are increasingly using individual user biometric data to prove that each person and their device is legitimate.

As all types of online fraud continue to proliferate at a rapid rate around the world, the consensus is that our future in cybersecurity and digital identity is built on Zero Trust and passwordless authentication. . Security tools are increasingly using individual user biometric data to prove that each person and their device is legitimate.

What is biometric information?

Biometric characteristics used to confirm identity must be unique, permanent, and measurable or collectable. These characteristics make biometric data one of the most effective means of identifying users. Biometrics is also very reliable for users, because the unique characteristics are not something that can be lost or forgotten, as is the case with a username and password combination. Currently, commonly captured biometrics include fingerprints, iris and retina, voiceprint, facial structures, DNA profiles, etc. Other biometrics are not widespread, but could have more applications in the future: first of all, body odor, the unique chemical imprint that each person carries on them. Then the imprint or structure of the ear, which does not change with age. Finally, gesture recognition, which is already part of Windows 10 or the lip print.

How is biometric information stored?

Since users cannot modify their biometric data obtained by unauthorized parties, it is extremely important to handle it with the utmost care. To use biometric information for identity authentication purposes, the first step is to capture this information. The captured information is converted into a mathematical rendering called a biometric template, which is compared to the real version presented by the user if necessary. Capturing and converting or copying the specific characteristics of a given biometric sample into a secure form takes the image or sample out of the equation, replacing it with a binary mathematical equivalent or algorithm. It is therefore extremely difficult, some say almost impossible, to reproduce a piece of biometric data. The image of a fingerprint, iris or other feature is discarded and the live version presented by the user is compared in real time to the features captured in mathematical form.

One of the main reasons why biometric data is safe and secure is that in many cases it is only stored on the user’s device. Often they are not captured or sent to external devices, databases or servers, which does not eliminate any single collection point where a hacker could steal them. Even if someone accesses a device’s biometric data, it is impossible to reverse the conversion that created it to produce an image that will be recognized and accepted by a biometric sensor.

Any sensor of a device usually has a file where the biometric template is stored. This file is protected by a randomly generated and encrypted key in the system. Some sensors do not depend on the operating system for this, as they store biometric data on the sensor module and can perform biometric matching of a user’s characteristics with the biometric template within the sensor itself. Biometric data is usually stored securely on a device, mobile token, control panel, biometric database server, server and device or distributed across multiple hardware.

What are the risks associated with storing biometric data?

All of these storage methods use encryption to protect biometric data, but anything encrypted can be decrypted. Ultimately, the security and reliability of encrypted data of any type depends on who has access to it. Storing biometric data on a device is more secure than storing it in a database. Storing in a database can be convenient and cost effective. However, with a large number of biometric templates for users, databases can be an attractive hacking target, and if successfully hacked, a large volume of data becomes vulnerable. Encryption is helpful, but the key to reducing risk is controlling who has access to the data and how they use it.

Another concern is the risk to privacy, as biometric data has the potential to bring targeted advertising into the physical world, where in-store cameras work with social media companies to identify you and show you in-store ads. specifically for you. Fortunately, some government agencies are aware of current trends, and laws are being created to control how biometric data is used. The GDPR addresses these concerns in Europe.

Protect your biometric data

As the use of biometrics becomes more and more common, your personal characteristics are likely to be stored in an increasing number of places. It is important that users remain vigilant when it comes to biometric security. Never provide biometric information without carefully considering the need to do so, researching the security in place, and determining the background of any entity asking you to provide it. If you are not comfortable providing your information to a device, service, product, or organization, do not provide any of your information, biometric or otherwise. Whatever the situation, remember that your identification information, including biometric data, remains yours. Depending on where you live, laws and regulations are in place to protect you and your data, and to require security standards and reporting obligations from any entity that requests and collects data from the users.

Other steps to take include following basic security and privacy recommendations, which were prevalent before most users even knew biometrics existed. Use strong passwords and change them regularly. Be sure to keep your device software up to date to get the latest updates and patches, which often fix security vulnerabilities, and pay close attention to your operating system and internet security software.

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