Devices can recognize you from your fingerprints, iris pattern and even your heartbeat but a stolen password can be changed, stolen fingerprints cannot. Biometric security doesn’t rely on your memory, but who you are. It swaps passwords for digital readings of anatomical features such as your face shape, fingerprint, iris, heartbeat and even brainwave patterns.
“The password system is severely broken,” says Thomas Keenan, a professor and expert in biometrics from the University of Calgary. “We’ve been relying on them for 40 years, but people now have so many and they are so complex that we can no longer remember them. You can’t forget body parts and they are much harder to duplicate or steal.”
It’s not only phones and operating systems incorporating the technology: ATMs, cars and briefcases have all been secured with fingerprint (and sometimes palm vein pattern) recognition technology. Starting January 2016, a company called “Sentinl” will start selling “Identilock” a gun-lock that will only release the trigger when the rightful owner’s finger comes in contact with it.
“Data breaches are very common. If biometric information is stored on a mass scale it can be hacked into and stolen and we may lose control of it,” warns Jennifer Lynch, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group.
The same characteristics that make biometrics seemingly secure are what also makes them so intrusive. If passwords are stolen, we can change them. We can’t change our fingerprints or faces. History has shown that soring any kind of personal data presents a tantalizing bounty to malicious hackers – as demonstrated when the fingerprints of 5.6 million US federal employees were stolen in September.
Biometric hackers from Germany’s Chaos Computer Club bypassed Apple’s Touch ID just days after it launched by taking a photograph of a fingerprint on a glass surface and using that to create a fake finger that could unlock the phone. A year later the same group cloned the thumbprint of the German defense minister, Ursula von der Leyen, after photographing her hand from a distance at a press conference.
It’s not just fingerprints that can be spoofed. Some facial recognition tools can be fooled by simply holding up photos or videos of the individual. Meanwhile, a team of Spanish researchers managed to trick eye-scanners with reverse engineered fake irises.
Jennifer Lynch also said, “But the risks are outweighed by the benefits,” pointing out that the convenience of biometrics means that people who typically eschew passwords because they are too fiddly are more likely to secure their devices.
Read Article (Olivia Solon | theguardian.com | 12/08/2015)
Does Jennifer Lynch use biometric security? This is an innovation that’s outstanding in theory, but fades in the light of reality. I’d wait until it was spoof-proof.
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