Biometrics

  • CybersecurityIs Facelock the password alternative we’ve been waiting for?

    By Philip Branch

    One of the problems with using passwords to prove identity is that passwords that are easy to remember are also easy for an attacker to guess, and vice versa. Nevertheless, passwords are cheap to implement and well understood, so despite the mounting evidence that they are often not very secure, until something better comes along they are likely to remain the main mechanism for proving identity. But maybe something better has come along. Researchers propose a new system based on the psychology of face recognition called Facelock. But how does it stack up against existing authentication systems? The idea certainly sounds interesting and the technical challenges in implementing such a system do not seem great. But there are difficult questions regarding cost, selection and security of images that need to be answered before it becomes a practical alternative to passwords.

  • VisasEconomic relationships, not terrorism fears, drive visa decisions: study

    Despite heightened focus on preventing global terrorism since the 9/11 attacks in 2001, researchers have found that the economic relationship between two countries is the most significant factor in determining the acceptance or rejection rate of visas. “Surprisingly what I find is the global reputation a state garners as a prominent origin of terrorism has a very minute impact when you take into account trade interdependence,” the study’s author says.

  • BiometricsA first: Armed robber convicted based on Chicago’s facial recognition technology

    Pierre Martin became the first person in Chicago to receive a prison sentence after being convicted based on evidence from the city’s facial recognition technology, NeoFace. Martin was sentenced Monday to twenty-two years for two armed robberies carried out on the Chicago Transit Authority(CTA) train system in January and February 2013. A few weeks after the incidents, Chicago Police Department officials announced that Marin was identified using facial recognition software.

  • BiometricsImproved performance of facial recognition software

    Who is that stranger in your social media photo? A click on the face reveals the name in seconds, almost as soon as you can identify your best friend. While that handy app is not quite ready for your smart phone, researchers are racing to develop reliable methods to match one person’s photo from millions of images for a variety of applications.

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  • SurveillanceNSA, other agencies, collect millions of images for large facial recognition databases

    The NSA, through its global surveillance operations, has been accumulating millions of images from communication interceptions for use in high-level facial recognition programs, according to classified 2011 documents leaked by Edward Snowden. The documents do not reveal how many people have been targeted with facial recognition programs, but given the NSA’s foreign intelligence mission, a bulk of the imagery collected would involve foreign nationals.

  • ImmigrationDHS wants changes in Calif.’s ID for undocumented immigrants

    California is preparing to issue drivers’ licenses to undocumented immigrants who have been permitted to stay in the United States, but DHS has rejected the state’s design for the license card. DHS wants the cards to be unique enough to distinguish them from regular drivers’ licenses, but immigrant rights activists do not want the design to be so different that license holders would suffer from discrimination.

  • AviationTSA expands PreCheck screening program to international airlines

    The TSA is expanding its PreCheckscreening program to passengers on international airlines. Air Canada is the first international carrier to join the list of PreCheck carriers, which already includes several U.S. airlines.Some international airlines are reluctant to join the PreCheck carrier list because it entails upgrading their computer systems to print a PreCheck logo and embed PreCheck data in their boarding pass barcodes. With Air Canada joining the list, the TSA believes other foreign carriers with a large U.S. passenger base would benefit if they offered PreCheck status to their customers.

  • BiometricsForensic DNA technology could help identify abducted Nigerian girls

    Forensic DNA technology developed in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks could be used to identify and reunite more than 200 Nigerian girls who were kidnapped by Islamist militants, scientists said. The software, Mass Fatality Identification System (M-FISys), has been used worldwide — in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Perú, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, among several other countries — to identify and return more than 700 children who were abducted by criminals for child trafficking.

  • BiometricsUsing biometrics to protect India’s one billion people raises security, privacy concerns

    The cutting edge of biometric identification — using fingerprints or eye scans to confirm a person’s identity – is not at the FBI or the Department of Homeland Security. It is in India. India’s Aadhaar program, operated by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and created to confirm the identities of citizens who collect government benefits, has amassed fingerprint and iris data on 500 million people. It is the biggest biometric database in the world, twice as big as that of the FBI. It can verify one million identities per hour, each one taking about thirty seconds. The program unnerves some privacy advocates with its Orwellian overtones.

  • BiometricsMass. teachers, child-care employees to go through national background checks

    The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Department of Early Education and Care, and the Executive Office of Public Safety and Securityannounced in March that educators and employees working in schools and childcare centers will have to go through a national background check. Teachers and other employees will have to pay for their own background checks.

  • Fake passportsThe global passport security loophole: how serious is it?

    By David Beirman

    More than one billion people are estimated to have travelled internationally in 2013, according to the UN’s World Tourism Organization. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a United Nations body that regulates air transport worldwide, reported that around 3.1 billion people travelled by airplane in 2013. The numbers are immense. As a result, so too are the security challenges for airlines, immigration, and airport security agencies. The ICAO expects all of its 192 member countries to introduce machine-readable passports by 2015, but there is still no international deadline for the introduction of biometric passports. This means some people could be using old-fashioned passports until 2025. Even then, there is no absolute guarantee biometric passports are any more tamper-proof than a host of other computer-based security measures which apply to credit cards and customer databases.

  • Border securityPassports of millions of travelers to U.K. not thoroughly checked

    The use of false passports by two passengers on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 which disappeared a couple of days ago have highlighted the fact that in the United Kingdom, the passport details of more than twenty million people entering and leaving the United Kingdom every year are not being properly checked. The Home Office’s most recent figures show that data is still not being collected and examined for about 10 percent of the 200 million people flying in and out of the United Kingdom every year.

  • BiometricsNIST report on iris aging flawed: researchers

    In July last year, NIST released a report, titled “IREX VI: Temporal Stability of Iris Recognition Accuracy,” which concluded that its “best estimate of iris recognition aging” is so small that there should be no concern about the possibility of iris recognition accuracy degrading over time. University of Notre Dame biometrics researchers Kevin Bowyer and Estefan Ortiz have release a paper which points to errors in the NIST report on how iris aging affects the accuracy of iris recognition. They describe specific methodological errors in the NIST report, and present a list of suggestions to be addressed in a revised version of the report.

  • BiometricsBiometric security for mobile devices becoming mainstream

    Biometric security such as fingerprint, face, and voice recognition is set to hit the mainstream as global technology companies market the systems as convenient and easy to use. The latest biometric technologies are not without their security issues, but they are marketed as more convenient than traditional methods rather than more secure, and encourage adoption by people who currently do not have any security on their phone at all.

  • BiometricsFlorida mulling banning school collection of students’ biometric information

    Some school districts in Florida, including Polk County and Pinellas County, are using scanners to collect fingerprints and hands, eyes, and voice characteristics from students. Pinellas County school district allows students to use palm scans instead of cash to pay for meals in the cafeteria. The collection of students’ biometric information has alarmed many parents who are concerned that students’ identity or personal records may be stolen or sold to private companies. Florida state legislators are debating a proposal which would stop school districts from collecting biometric information from students.