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Cloud Security: Blog Post

Biometric Authentication: Are We Prepared?

People still consider Biometric Authentication as an intrusion of their privacy.

On a recent trip back to the United States from abroad, I stood in line with several others as we waited for Homeland Security officers to check our documents and credentials. You knew as you waited in that long line of other residents returning from their trips, that when the person at the booth put their hands up to the fingerprint scanner, that their time of questioning was done. We tend to think of biometric authentication being used only in high security situations, like crossing national borders. With the increasing number of cyber attacks, business owners are not taking internet security lightly. In fact, as I'm writing this, the largest cyber attack in the world so far is taking place against anti-spam watchdog group Spamhaus, a Swiss British group that creates and keeps blacklists of IP addresses and internet users that create bogus and counterfeit internet content. Reports say that the attacks are being generated from unhappy Russian internet service providers who say that they were being wrongly discriminated against. The internet is clearly moving into new territories of power plays and ownership. And for some stakeholders, biometric authentication.

What used to seem like the stuff of movies is already being integrated into our homes, workplaces, point-of-sales places and schools. It is also used in DRM scenarios and healthcare, in libraries and integrated in smart cards and digital signatures. Different facets of biometric authentication exist, not just fingerprint scanning or iris recognition technology. There os voice recognition technology, face recognition, even typing rhythms! With this burgeoning plethora of choices, it won't be long before biometric authentication will be used more frequently on a large scale basis. But are we prepared for this kind of scrutiny in our everyday lives where our very identity is documented and stored on a regular basis in a manner that we have no control over? The consensus says that we are not.

Take a look at the already existing surveillance dodging equipment and technology that emerges almost as soon as biometrics comes into play. In countries like Japan, because all foreigners are fingerprinted before entering the country, fingerprint gel is used to mask the real fingerprint pattern. In cameras that employ face recognition software, faces can be painted in segments to prevent the camera from even recognizing the presence of a face in the first place.

That is why lesser intrusive forms of authentication, like tokenless two factor authentication, is still being hailed as the holy grail of multi-layered online security. It doesn't need your personal information, except a cell phone number that can receive text messages or phone calls with a one time pin that will be the next step of the log in process. That sounds like a reasonable enough request, even for those who are extremely surveillance shy, who can resort to buying a pay-as-you-go phone to help you with phone verification log ins, and keep your personal phone completely detached from the process. Your hair/ face/ eyes/ fingers won't be a part of this process at all; all you'll need to do is make sure your phone is switched on to receive that phone call or text message. No personal information is stored, and you can rest assured that your phone number will not be given away to telemarketers and other bothersome elements. Two factor authentication solutions using one time pins are so effective that it allows the user the requisite amount of privacy that he or she might need, without compromising on real identity establishing functions. If the phone you used to register on the site is not with you, chances are, you are not who you say you are and you're attempting an illegal log in. It is also known as out of band authentication, because it uses two separate channels and makes them communicate in order to complete the log in process. One of these two channels is on the person of the user, in their cell phone, and therefore chances of unauthorized entry is minimized. Simple, effective, clever, two factor authentication from Telesign is a good security bet to make.

More Stories By James Brown

James Brown is a business and technology blogger living in Los Angeles, CA. He likes to share his knowledge by writing articles for high-quality blogs/websites. And he is crazy about baseball.

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