Biometrics is the method of utilizing unique physical characteristics to identify individuals. Many cultures have used biometrics for identification throughout history, but one of the best-known examples is fingerprinting. It only became a systemized form of identification in 1858, though. Since biometrics are an efficient approach to restrict access to sensitive information, devices, and physical locations today, businesses are embracing them at an increased rate. While it certainly works most of the time, the technology isn’t perfect yet. Therefore, any company interested in using biometric technology to authenticate staff or end-users should first know its advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of Biometric Technology
The use of this technology is not just limited to accessing server rooms or confidential lockers. Nowadays, companies use this system for time tracking and identification. American Airlines, Barclays, and Disney are some leading companies relying on biometric technology. These are the 6 advantages of biometric technology.
1. Biometrics are Fast
The technology works quickly, especially with today’s machines. They use powerful hardware and advanced identification methods that rely on software and sometimes AI (Artificial Intelligence). For example, fingerprint scanning takes less than a second. To be more specific, a fingerprint scanner can scan someone’s fingerprints in only 0.15 seconds. Therefore, there’s no time wasted standing at the register waiting for your identity to be verified.
Another example of biometrics is a retina scanner, which can scan someone’s retina in the same time — 0.15 seconds. That means that you could be waiting to buy groceries and have your identity scanned faster than it takes to shop for food at the store. These scanners can identify everyone, from children to the elderly, so they don’t discriminate against age.
The technology is precise and efficient when identifying a person. Moreover, fingerprints are unique to each person, so once a fingerprint has been scanned for identification purposes, you can be sure the results will come back positive unless physical damage has occurred. A retina scanner takes an image of your retina and determines if you are who you say by scanning for irregularities in the blood vessels — a trait only one person has. Because biometric technology is so accurate, it’s also very secure. It can’t be hacked into that easily due to its superior identification methods.
Comparison table between different biometric technologies
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3. Biometric Systems are Highly Secure
Biometric systems have a powerful defense thanks to several modern identification methods. As we mentioned, it takes a lot of time and effort for someone to hack into this system, so you don’t have to worry about them stealing your information. That makes this method safer than other types of verification systems like a PIN (Personal Identification Number) or a password. Additionally, biometric technology is safer because it’s extremely difficult to imitate by someone trying to steal your identity.
Biometric authentication adds another hurdle for fraudsters that only a real, authorized user can circumnavigate. For example, hackers may guess a person’s pet’s name or some lucky numbers to break into their online accounts. Well, they can’t use is their fingerprint or retina to unlock an account if they can’t provide it on the spot. Also, bots can’t crack into users’ records since biometrics work on live and breathing people.
The advantages of biometric systems are numerous for both companies and employees. All you have to do is scan your finger or retina, and the machine will take care of everything else for you. That means no more PINs or passwords because all you need now is a scan of the aforementioned physical traits. Plus, it’s extremely convenient because you don’t have to worry about forgetting your PIN or password. The scanned data is automatically stored and accessed from a server connected to the cameras or scanners with no human intervention.
5. Biometric Technology is Future-proof
The application of biometrics will rise in the future. Fingerprint and retina scanners are becoming more advanced and capable of identifying people through parts of their bodies such as teeth or even sweat pores. Thus, all you must do is scan any part of your body to have your identity verified. These systems have wide applications in airports, police departments, and even the healthcare sector. Finally, according to a study by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, technology will play an immense role in cryptographic applications.
6. 100% Return on Investment
Biometric technology is the sole security system that grants a 100% return on investment. If you invest in any other security system, such as a human-based register or any authentication protocol, chances are it can fail. But biometric systems are meticulous in not only collecting relevant data, but also mapping said data to the correct participant. Hence, investing in biometric technology might be costly initially, but it is a value-for-money deal that will only turn out to be more successful over time.
Disadvantages of Biometric Technology
While these systems are very beneficial, there are some drawbacks of biometric technology to consider. Cost of implementation is one of the common concerns for companies that may affect their budget during the initial phases. The expenses can vary for businesses and individuals alike to implement because the equipment isn’t cheap. Followed by the costs, further problems detailed below may also emanate over time. These are the 6 disadvantages of biometric technology.
1. Biometrics Can be Expensive
This technology is not low-priced, so if you want this type of identification system, you really have to pay for it. The machine itself and any software or devices needed are all very costly. Not only that — they require ongoing expenses, such as the constant device updates every year or so. There may also be extra costs like buying new machines when old ones break down because they aren’t easy to fix. This makes these types of verification systems more difficult to apply than methods that don’t need special equipment.
2. Not Very User-Friendly
Biometric technology is great but might be difficult to master for some. For example, many types of biometric systems require you to scan your fingerprint or retina for them to work properly. Some employees may find this process challenging because they’re used to just entering a PIN or password. Besides the machine itself being confusing, there may also be software issues with updating passwords when new security features come out. Thus, companies may have to invest time in training the employees and solving malfunctions if they don’t update the system often enough.
3. Reliability Issues
Biometric technology is impressive, but unfortunately, there are more disadvantages to its use. One example of this is that the scans aren’t always accurate. If your fingers are wet or dirty, they may not read properly. This means someone else can use your identity to gain access into a secure area if, for instance, their palm prints match yours. Hence, extra security measures need to be put in place. One example is requiring employees’ fingerprints twice instead of once like usual, in case one scan doesn’t work. Exploiting this tactic could mean lives are at risk, depending on what kind of business you have.
4. Vulnerable to Duplication and Internal Attacks
While having an identity scan is convenient, it’s not always foolproof. A shortcoming of biometric technology is that some types of verification aren’t as secure. Whenever digital information is handled, there’s a risk of duplication. This means the information can fall into the wrong hands. Furthermore, an ill-intentioned employee may gain access to a physically secured area with equipment and a server. To sum up, more security measures must exist to combat data duplication and potential incidents with malicious employees or administrator impersonation.
5. It Can Lead to Discrimination
Some employees may be more likely to have their identity stolen than others, leading to further limitations in viable types of authentication. In addition, homeless people, refugees, or immigrants living in different countries with no form of identification will not benefit from biometric technology. These people find themselves without access to important services and risk losing money and property if there’s an insufficient number of security measures.
Using fingerprint or retina scans exclusively within a system could mean someone with no fingers or no eyes will never be able to gain access. This would cause problems down the line when such a person tries to open a bank account or apply for other government projects or benefits.
6. Software dependent
No matter how great the hardware is, it is reliant on complimentary software. Hence, any biometric system is only good as its programming. Although biometric technology is near failsafe, the software aspect is a glaring flaw that can get manipulated into a security threat. Another point is biometric technology has custom software. There is no single mold that can be used universally. Hence, if the developer installs a backdoor in the program or leaves any exploitable codes, any hacker can easily gain access to the database without having to rely on biometric authentication.