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Biometric data security

  • Author:zz
  • Source:zz
  • Release on:2016-09-27
With iPhone and laptop fingerprint access, facial scanning and fingerprint border controls, DNA crime scene analysis, biometrics are all-pervasive. In the recent popular BBC series, The Night Manager, Tom Hiddleston uses facial recognition on his phone to access a bank account. As the trend is increasing utilisation of biometrics for identification and authentication, we need to examine security implications. Handheld Pos Systems

Biometrics, the factor of “something you are”, has the advantage of always being present – you can never forget to take your fingerprints or face with you. Some unique physical attributes, such as an iris, are less invasive to collect than others such as retina capillaries. Society needs to debate whether and under what conditions it is acceptable to collect biometric data without permission.
The sensitivity of biometric measurements is a variable that should be determined for each application. Only applications where high security is imperative, require high accuracy. High sensitivity leads to false rejection errors, where individuals who should be accepted are rejected. Low sensitivity leads to false acceptance errors, where those who should not be accepted are. We measure these errors as the False Rejection Rate (FRR) and the False Acceptance Rate (FAR), where the Crossover Error Rate (CRR) is the sensitivity level at which the two are equal. iPhone’s Touch ID for example, does not need the highest sensitivity – it is less desirable to have many false rejections rather than the possibility of a false acceptance.
touch screen keypad lock
Once entered into a system, biometric data is represented in a digital file, and this can be stolen and replayed. A demonstration of intercepting and replaying a digital representation of biometric data is here. In the 2015 Office of Personnel Management (OPM) data theft, digital representations of 5.6 million fingerprints were stolen. Earlier this month we found out about the data breach of 55 million voters in the Philippines – it is believed that biometric information is amongst the stolen data. The implications of biometric data file theft are far more severe than username/password data theft, as with biometrics there is no reset function. You can change your password but you can’t change your fingerprint or iris.
Potential negative consequences are compounded when biometric data is stored centrally on a server rather than only on the endpoint device. The Unique Identification Authority of India for example, collects biometric data on its 1.2b citizens which it stores in a central database. Personal biometric data from different body parts should never be stored on the same database or server.