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Biometric Data Security: How Safe Is Your Data And Who Owns It?
Biometrics can be simply described as metrics that are related to human features. We all use our biometric data numerous times a day without consciously recognizing that it's a unique genetic makeup that is providing us access to certain things. Every time we unlock our phones, log into our banking app, authenticate payments, or enter secure facilities using facial recognition or iris scanning, we use biometrics.
As technology continues to evolve, biometric systems have become more convenient by replacing passwords. Digital biometric templates scale up security and are better at identifying individuals than other solutions. But have you ever wondered where is biometric data stored and is it safe from identity theft? Let's find out.
Types Of Biometrics
Biometric data can be classified into six categories:
Facial recognition: It measures unique patterns of a person's face and differentiates faces by analyzing facial contours. This method is mostly used in law enforcement but is also common in smartphones and laptops.
Fingerprint scanning: This method captures a unique pattern of ridges and valleys of a person's finger. It has become very common on smartphones and laptops, replacing passwords for good.
Iris scanning: This technique identifies unique patterns of a person's iris that surrounds the pupil of the eye. Although the method is popular in security applications, the consumer market is yet to adopt it completely.
Voice recognition: Different voices are differentiated by measuring unique sound waves in each person's voice. Some banks use voice recognition for security purposes but you are most likely to experience it when speaking to smart assistants like Siri or Alexa.
Behavior analysis: This method analyzes how a person interacts with a computerized system. For instance, how they use a mouse, keystroke patterns, or how often you visit the same pages during browsing.
Hand geometry: This technique measures the length, width, thickness, and surface area of the user's palm. This method is very old and dates back to the 1980s. Hand geometry-powered devices were mostly used for security purposes.
Where Is The Biometric Data Saved?
There are a few common ways to store biometric data:
On-device storage: biometric templates are often stored on local devices as is the case with most fingerprint data on smartphones. This is believed to be safe because no sensitive data is shared on servers that have huge databases. It can be hacked only if the device is stolen, which is rare and will cause damage on a small scale. The internal data can also be deleted if the data gets hacked.
Portable token: This method involves saving a person's biometric data on a portable token like a smart card. A template of their biometric is stored on the token and it doesn't need to be transferred over a network for verification. However, the user will have to go through a two-step authentication process to use this method.
Database server: At times, local device storage isn't possible, so big firms that use biometric authentication for providing access, might opt for biometric database storage instead of local device storage. This helps them grant access to multiple areas and track the behavior of workers to flag suspicious activities. Although this method is proven to be cost-effective, it does raise some serious privacy concerns.
Distributed data storage: This involves storing the biometric templates on both server and a device to provide a double-backed system. The data is divided into small encrypted files and stored separately on the server and the device's storage. This makes it difficult for cybercriminals to extract biometric data as they would need access to both points.
Help Protect Your Biometric Data
While any collection of data can be eventually compromised, there are a few measures you can take to help protect your biometric data. For one, strong passwords make it harder to extract data by simply guessing your password. Also, it's advised to keep your biometric information limited to a few places, making it even more difficult for cybercriminals to breach your data.
Another good way to help secure your data is to keep your devices' software up to date. It's a good practice to update your devices right away whenever the manufacturers roll out a new software update. This prevents your devices from being vulnerable to security threats that may be present in the previous operating system.
If you are skeptical about the security of your biometric data, then opting out of it is also a viable option. You can consider using a smartphone that doesn't need your fingerprint or facial data to unlock. You should also disable facial recognition from your Facebook profile's settings.
The use of biometric data does sound safe and secure, and could be conveniently useful in the future, provided the guidelines for security are strict and capable of protecting your privacy.