How your fingerprints are used
Your fingers have never been more important - they can unlock doors, open phones and even secure your savings, explains Greg Sarrail, Vice President, Solutions Business Development, Biometrics Lumidigm brand, HID Global
Fingerprint scanners are considered the second most popular biometric devices by consumers around the world according to research undertaken by the 2016 Future Password Index. This is research was defined by how interested people were in using fingerprints to verify their identity when handling their devices, banking and other forms of security. Fingerprint biometrics saw a steady rise in popularity from 2014 t0 2016 and remains one of the most trusted on the market it today. It is a trend that isn’t going to change anytime soon and this is further underscored by the rise in fingerprint scanners, ATMs, devices and solutions. Your fingerprint has become a coded key that only you can wield…
People are being asked for their fingerprints on a daily basis. When you go to work, transact at your bank, and when you apply for certain government documents. Biometrics even play a fundamental role in the criminal justice system.
However, not all biometric systems are created equal. There are important differences between specific systems, their capabilities, the data they access and the data they share. Some are not linked, so you could transact at your bank or enter your office park with your unique identity, but this information will not be shared anywhere else. The data is captured and secured by each individual system to ensure absolute security and controlled access.
In addition, it is important to know the difference between biometric verification and biometric identification as their applications vary, as do their relevance to your security. When undertaking biometric identification, you are asking – ‘Who am I?’ – whereas with biometric verification you are asking – ‘Am I who I claim to be?’. For example, once your fingerprint has been submitted to a specific database, an identification application would compare it against a larger database of fingerprints that are associated with identities. If your fingerprint is found within that database, then the question of ‘Who am I?’ has been answered. This is biometric identification in a very simple nutshell.
When it comes to biometric verification and proving an identity, there is a need to add in some extra factors that can support the process and make it more secure. These can be account numbers, credit cards, or even smart devices. The system then pulls up the biometric data associated with your fingerprint and attempts to make a match. It’s important to note that the verification process doesn’t examine all fingerprint data for all users to find a match. Instead it checks to see if the fingerprint template that’s presented to the system is the same one that was originally enrolled, and it provides a quick ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.
Biometric verification is very quick and is often used in commercial applications. It is private and efficient and often requires two-factor authentication – something you have or know plus your fingerprint that identifies who you are. Enrolling and verifying individuals using this process doesn’t demand huge processing power and is ideally suited to the growing trend in enterprise mobility. You can simply store your own biometric data on your own devices for privacy, portability and convenience. Of the two types of biometric application, this is the simplest and most easily found on smaller devices and has recently grown in popularity within the consumer space.
When you use your finger to access your phone, this is defined as biometric verification. The device uses your singular print stored in its database to confirm that you are who you claim to be, further backed up by passwords and PIN numbers. Biometric identification is more complex and requires a system that’s advanced and comprehensive. An example of this would be when you access your bank account using a biometric pad at the teller, or when you are applying for specific government papers and the system checks your fingerprint against a vast database of prints and identities.
Biometric verification is the hurdle you jump to prove that you are who you say you are, biometric identification is when a system identifies you from within a vast database. Both systems are invaluable when it comes to protecting your identity and assets, but the latter demands a level of sophistication in technology to manage a significantly larger database and it is prohibitive for more basic devices and biometric systems.
Whether you are about to use biometrics to identify or verify, your fingerprint remains your own proof of who you are. It is unique to you and you alone, and it is your highly personalised key to unlocking your world. This is the future for your finger and its prints – securing your data to the highest possible standards.