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Can we live in a world without passwords? Five trends in biometric identification

July 7, 2015 Article 2 min read
Sarah Pavelek

Count up all of your devices and accounts that require a password. I’ll wait. Now, out of those accounts — and I’m guessing it’s a lot — how many use the same password? Furthermore, when was the last time you updated your passwords?

Traditional passwords are weak not only because we fail to change them, or we forget them, but they’re also easy to hack. What does this mean for the future of cybersecurity? The answer lies in biometrics.

Biometrics is the process by which our unique physical traits are detected and recorded by an electronic device as a means of confirming identity. They’re hard to spoof, impossible to lose, and technological advancements suggest they’ll make passwords a thing of the past.

Five trends in biometric identification

1. Finger vein recognition

While fingerprint identification is not failsafe, since it can be easily forged, finger vein recognition goes a step further, using an infrared sensor to highlight your veins and create a vascular pattern that’s impossible to duplicate.

2. Facial recognition

The latest technological developments employ sensors to pinpoint the distinctive contours and features of your face, creating a 3D facial signature. Facial recognition has been used in law enforcement and even casinos. The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. in Canada uses this technology to detect self-identified gambling addicts in their facilities.

3. Voice printing

Voice printing, or sound spectrogram identification, creates a voice “image” based on the shape of your vocal cavities and how you speak. Voice biometrics has been a useful tool for financial institutions in the fight against fraud.

4. Heartbeat signature

Noted for its security and convenience, a heartbeat signature is at the forefront of wearable biometrics. A wristband detects a person’s electrocardiograph by observing unique electrical impulses and the resulting heart rhythm. This form of biometric identification is particularly secure since, unlike a fingerprint, you can’t leave behind your heartbeat.

5. Retinal & iris scan

A beam of light is used to identify the retina at the back of the eye, mapping the complex network of blood vessels it contains. Iris identification reveals the intricate structure and pattern of the iris muscle. Unlike a retinal scan, it’s unobtrusive with a simple image analyzed against mathematical and statistical algorithms.

While no single biometric identification is the answer, the future may see passwords replaced with a combination of various biometrics. Some critics point to the infrastructure and costs associated with storing biometric data, but technological advancements in cloud technology will continue, making biometric identification accessible to all. The real test will be the ability to keep biometric data secure.

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