TrendBiometric technologies improve, offering greater reliability

Published 3 June 2009

Biometrics is not perfect — but it is improving; biometrics is developing along two lines — physical, which is often more intrusive for the user, and behavioral, which is usually less intrusive; Fujitsu’s Jerry Byrnes: “What was James Bond 15 years ago is biometric reality today”

What is the state of biometrics? How far has the technology come? What are the main biometric trends, and the main challenges the industry faces? TechNewsWorld’s Jack Germain offers a tour d’horizon of the main issues the industry faces, and the challenges it is yet to overcome.

When biometric security devices began appearing nearly a decade ago, they were often touted as the final word in security technology. It was not too long before hackers developed techniques to fool biometrics scanners, much like they have found ways around spam filters and firewalls. Biometric device vendors, in turn, learned how to improve early scanners and algorithms to develop more ironclad security products.

Still, writes Germain, there still exists a degree of hype surrounding the reliability of biometrics in keeping the bad guys out of your computer or physical entrance way, and early-generation device failures continue to hold potential users at bay. “A few years ago, many people viewed biometrics as a silver bullet for security. So far, the technology is not living up to that expectation. Biometrics is not good enough yet. It needs the right balance between rejecting legitimate users and allowing unauthorized ones to log on,” Amit Klein, CTO and chief researcher for browser security vendor Trusteer, told TechNewsWorld.

Changing reputation
One way in which biometric security technology can improve is in the ability to detect a user’s stress level. Ideally, a vendor should create a system in which it is impossible for the bad guys to force users to cooperate or alter the biometric data to gain access, according to Klein.

Some developers have indeed made inroads in getting more reliability from their devices. “I hear much more discussion of biometric devices and the recognition that the spoofing prevalent years ago is no longer valid. Still, the technology is never 100 percent secure. But today’s solutions are fixing what was wrong with early generations of biometrics,” says Brian Contos, chief security strategist for data security vendor Imperva.

The security industry is seeing a convergence of physical and virtual devices. Biometric access is becoming integrated with access to databases, computer applications, computer networks, and physical locations. The process is more reliable, but the technology still has a ways to go, he conceded. “Overall, people see biometrics as more reliable,” said Contos. “The industry is still very much a cat and mouse game.”

Becoming more sophisticated
Biometric security devices play gatekeepers by checking physical