Biometrics is “the study of methods for uniquely recognizing humans based upon one or more intrinsic physical or behavioral traits.” (Wikipedia)
Biometrics is crucial for identifying and taking out of play enemy combatants, terrorists, and criminals or for providing access to trusted employees or partners in public or private sector organizations, like the intelligence community, defense, security, and various sensitive industries like financial, telecommunications, transportation, energy, and so forth.
National Defense Magazine, November 2007 has an article on the significant advances being made in biometric technologies and their applications to our organizations.
According to “’The National Biometrics Challenge,’ a report produced by the Office of the President’s National Science and Technology Council…’a tipping point in the maturation of the technology has been reached.’”
Both the FBI’s Information Services Division and The Department of Defense Biometric Fusion Center are leading the way in this field.
Currently, identity is established based on the trinity: “something you know (such as a password), something you have (like an identity card), or something you are, which is where biometrics comes in.”
Biometrics includes technologies for recognizing fingerprints, facial features, irises, veins, voices, and ears, and even gait.
But these are technologies identification means are not fool-proof: remembering multiple complex passwords can be dizzying and identity cards can be lost, stolen, or forged. So biometrics becomes the cornerstone for identity management.
However, even biometrics can be spoofed. For example, fake rubber fingers have been used in lieu of a real fingerprint (although now there are ways with living flesh sensors to protect against this). So therefore, biometrics is evolving toward “multi-modial” collection and authentication. This could involve using 10 fingerprints versus one or combing fingerprint, iris scans, and digital mugshots (called the “13 biometrics template” and used to gain access in U.S. managed detention centers in Iraq) or some other combination thereof.
Biometrics has advanced so much so that an Iris scan system from Sarnoff Corp. of Princeton NJ “can scan and process 20 people per minute from distances of about 10 feet away, even those who are wearing glasses.”
The keys to further enterprise application of these technologies in our enterprises are the following:
- Lowering the cost (especially to make it available to local law enforcement agencies)
- Making it rugged enough for extreme environments for the military
- Making it portable so that it can be used for a variety of law enforcement and defense operations
- Reengineering business processes so that measurements are captured, stored, accessible, and readily available for making a match and generating a decision on someone’s identity in real-time
- Developing policies that “effectively govern the proper use of the data” and ensure adequate protection for civil liberties and privacy.
Overall, biometrics has moved from emerging technology to applied technology and needs to be planned into your identity management architectures.