Towards a secure future with Biometrics based Authentication Systems

By: Sambit Bakshi, IEEE Member

The global technology and information security industry is facing a massive threat due to the ongoing technological evolution and digital transformation. Data breaches and cyberattacks have become rampant, putting personal information of millions of people around the world in jeopardy. In May 2021 alone, there were 116 million recorded cases of data breaches and cyberattacks. As a result of the growing need for security, countries across the world are resorting to implementing the most effective and robust biometric technologies.

Biometrics in its true essence is the science of uniquely identifying or verifying an individual among a set of people by exploring the user’s physiological or behavioral characteristics. Due to its ease of use in many scenarios (spanning from attendance systems to high-security access control), biometric systems are currently being introduced in many day-to-day activities. We come across biometric authentication in our everyday lives in many ways. Unlocking our smart phones with facial recognition or fingerprints are prime examples of this. 

While COVID-19 and the global lockdown measures have handicapped several industries, developers of contactless biometric technology are thriving. The need for social distancing and contactless services has increased the relevance of this industry and is driving business growth. The Biometric Survey 2021, published by Goode Intelligence, stated that the majority of those surveyed have observed an increase in biometrics adoption directly attributed to COVID-19. 

Biometric technology is gradually making its way into India, with biometric devices now being used in law enforcement, local security, as well as the travel and immigration sectors. Furthermore, the use of biometrics devices is expected to increase as users' concerns about privacy and security grow. According to TechSci Research in India, the biometrics market is estimated to grow at a 21.38 percent CAGR to 2026 from US$1.64 billion in 2020 to exceed $5 billion by 2026.

With the increased penetration of biometrics in the country, applications of this technology can be seen across industries, most notably in healthcare, banking, and market research.

Healthcare: The pandemic has driven an increased demand for remote healthcare services and telehealth technologies – but what we must remember is that, the same technologies and their proliferation can compromise sensitive information stored in healthcare centers and put patient data at risk of hacking-related breaches. Using biometrics in healthcare offers robust encryption that enhances security and protects sensitive information from being accessed by outside sources. Biometric solutions today have also become an appealing choice for IoT-based wearable devices, thereby allowing the collection and analysis of real-time personal data such as heart rates and sleeping patterns. Touchless biometric such as face and voice offer a way to authenticate a person’s identity and enable access to secure locations in the medical field, which could help in reducing the spread of viruses.

Banking Services: Visual biometrics have a key role in the banking sector, which includes providing biometric solutions through facial recognition, hand geometry, fingerprint recognition, iris and retina scans, voice recognition, signature recognition, and more. The ongoing global health crisis has opened new avenues for Visual Biometrics, allowing banks and financial institutions to conduct know your customer processes via video from anywhere in the world. 

Market Research: In market research, biometrics plays an important role by providing a platform to understand the physiological reaction of people to certain stimuli, experiences, websites, or ideas. Since physical reactions do not necessarily always match with a person’s words, using biometrics can prove extremely useful for market research. 

India is a country with a huge population and managing biometrics of this size can be a challenging task, however, it is achievable through evolved technologies such as Machine Learning and IoT.

Biometric systems generate massive amounts of data, which can be managed using Machine Learning techniques for improved handling and space management. Deep learning can also play an important role in analyzing data to build automated systems that achieve better accuracy. According to a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace report, 75 countries, of a total of 176 countries, are actively leveraging AI capabilities for biometric purposes such as facial recognition systems, smart cities, and others. AI-Machine Learning-based systems, in collaboration with cutting-edge technologies such as IoT, Cloud Computing, and Data Science, have successfully advanced Biometrics.

Furthermore, with the introduction of biometric security plastic cards will likely become less mainstream as society will rely on biometrics as a standard daily operation. Improving modern techniques is the simplest way to offer a high level of protection against evolving cyber threats. These technologies are evolving at such a rapid pace that it is difficult to accurately predict what they will look like in a few years from now. However, one thing is certain— passwords that were difficult to use, change, and remember will soon become a thing of the past.

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