The need for data security is more than ever in today’s increasingly digital and interconnected world. The way we communicate and interact has been revolutionised by the advancements of technology and the internet. It has evaded all aspects of our living and thus the need for robust security mechanisms that can safeguard individual privacy and confidential company data. All these factors have contributed to the rise of biometric security solutions and they are being increasingly adopted in various demanding sectors such as government, law enforcement agencies and business organizations. Biometric security has tremendous potential as compared to traditional security mechanisms such as passwords or smart cards. As biometric traits are inherent to individuals, they are undeniably the most accurate form of authentication and can greatly enhance the security of electronic devices, servers, credit card transactions as well as make airports safer. This has led to the endorsement of these security mechanisms by government agencies and large organizations alike.
Of all the modalities, fingerprint identification is the most popular and widely used. Apple’s Touch Id first introduced fingerprint scanning for mobiles followed by many other smartphone manufacturers. Now we see this technology in various scenarios of everyday life. Some examples include travel documents such as electronic passports, company access cards with integrated biometrics etc. The growth of biometric security is viewed both as an industry as well as technology trend and its global market is estimated to reach almost $16.7 billion by the year 2019.
Governments and business organizations choosing biometric security over traditional mechanisms
Almost every day, there are reports of data breaches, hacking of credentials and password thefts across both the private and public sectors. It is obvious that current authentication mechanisms are vulnerable and at the same time inadequate to combat these threats. Furthermore, the presence of electronics in almost every facet of modern life implies the need for enhanced security. Passwords that are commonly used to protect intellectual data and networks are found to be the weakest security link. Access cards or smart cards can be easily stolen or shared. In contrast, biometric traits such as fingerprints or iris scan are much harder to steal or replicate. Moreover, they are impossible to guess unlike weak passwords. They can accurately authenticate individual’s identity and do so repeatedly. This inherent strength of biometric security gives it the distinct advantage and thus such systems are capable of providing better and robust security as compared to passwords or smart cards.
Thus we see that traditional security mechanisms have failed to provide what is needed and data breaches in the United States are reaching a staggering number. Biometric security is the concrete solution to this problem. Although this technology initially faced some resistance, individuals, government agencies and companies are gradually warming up to the idea that their fingerprints and irises are actually better than passwords or smart cards. Nowadays, it is quite common to use fingerprints to logon to smart phones or computers and people understand its strength in protecting their personal data and devices.
It can also play a very crucial role in the field of law enforcement by helping to reduce the risk of terror attacks. Facial recognition software can be used to screen suspicious individuals and alert authorities which will help to keep their areas safe. The adoption of biometric methods for securing airports and national borders is also on the rise and several airports have already implemented fingerprint identification systems. Thus the market clearly indicates an upward trajectory for biometric security whether it is for protecting individual, government or corporate information.
How is biometric security utilized in government agencies?
Governments all around the world are keen on implementing programs that can deliver efficient, safe and cost-effective services to their citizens free of fraud and waste. The main motive of government welfare programs is that services should reach the intended recipients on time. Rural areas in the developing world struggle for proper healthcare and services as many citizens do not have valid identity documents. Fingerprint identification can help bridge this gap and make services available to the unreachable areas. Fingerprints are inherent to individuals and cannot be shared or stolen. Therefore, the implementation of biometric security systems will help in the proper distribution of government subsidies like welfare, pension and healthcare.
It will replace the need of physical identity cards for citizens. Instead the citizen’s fingerprint is used for authentication and is far more reliable as each identity card is associated with only one individual. In government healthcare schemes, fingerprint identification ensures that critical health information is linked to the correct medical records. This is extremely important as any mismatch can cause serious damages to the individual’s health as well as lead to improper welfare allocation. It helps to curb medical fraud and maintains the integrity of government welfare programs.
Data breaches are a serious cause of concern for governments and the major attacks on federal agencies indicate the need for stronger cyber security measures. In the last 10 years, the U.S government has more than doubled its spending on cyber security and the deployment of biometrics continues to grow across government cyber security systems. Security measures such as fingerprint identification acts as a strong deterrent to cyber security threats and it is also convenient to use by government officials as well as other employees.
With the advancements in technology, hackers have also come up with increasingly sophisticated mechanisms to fool safety measures. Security tokens and PINs cannot ensure the safety of government premises as these can be easily stolen or forgotten. Fingerprint identification helps to control access to restricted facilities by ensuring that only authorized individuals enter the facility. It is also very quick and more convenient than remembering passwords or tokens. It significantly improves access control security as it can guarantee beyond doubt that the individual entering the premises is actually who he or she claims to be.
The safety of international borders is a critical and challenging task for government agencies. Therefore, multiple checking of passports are conducted at airports and border security checkpoints to verify the identity of travellers and only allow those individuals with proper travel documents. However, manual identification checks are time-consuming and error prone. By implementing fingerprint identification systems, government agencies are able to facilitate quick and smooth crossing for travellers. These systems prevent intruders from entering the country with fake documents and help to maintain strong border security.
How biometric security is utilized in law enforcement agencies?
Law enforcement is a demanding sector and biometrics can fulfill its security demands. Biometric technology has a long history with law enforcement and has assisted its criminal identification efforts for more than a century. Its usage is further expanding in law enforcement and more advanced approaches for automatic identification and verification of individuals using traits such as fingerprints, iris are being developed. According to the consulting firm Frost and Sullivan, the law enforcement biometrics market is expected to reach $1.1 billion by 2021. It is an essential component of law enforcement from municipal to the national level. It is increasingly being deployed by military and government agencies all around the world.
The FBI maintains a biometrics based system known as the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) for storing fingerprints that can be used in criminal cases. This system is the world’s largest person-centric database and it contains more than 47 million individual fingerprints and their corresponding criminal history. This database is a powerful system that can tremendously speed up the process of investigation. For criminal searches, this database can return results in fifteen minutes or less and civil searches can be performed in less than four hours. The IAFIS also supports interoperability and all law enforcement agencies – local, state and federal can access it.
With fingerprint data getting collected at greater frequency and stored for longer duration, the deployment of biometric security is on the rise in the law enforcement sector. There is also a strong emphasis on developing better technical and legal structures to enable sharing of this data between local, state and federal agencies. Thus we see that the increasing cases of domestic and international violence along with rising criminal activities and gun violence have promoted the adoption of fingerprint identification for background checks. The government is keen on increasing the deployment of such systems as they are extremely accurate and provide reliable access control and user authentication.
How is biometric security utilized in business organizations?
The application of biometrics was initially limited to the realm of government and security. But nowadays it has extended far beyond these areas and its application in business organizations has become more widespread and is constantly increasing. More and more organizations are looking to integrate these authentication systems to enhance the safety of their corporate data and devices.
The biggest hurdle for businesses in achieving maximum return on investment is employee time theft. Traditional mechanisms of recording employee time and attendance are ineffective and cost businesses a huge sum of money. A study by Nucleus Research reports that the losses due to employee time thefts and buddy punching average 2.2% of the gross payroll and hence companies are looking for effective workforce management solutions. Unlike passwords or access cards that can be shared among employees, biometric systems such as fingerprint identification require the employees to be physically present.
The employees clock-in at work using their fingerprints which ensures accurate recording of their work time and is also vitally important for employees that are paid on an hourly basis. A late employee can easily hand over his card to another employee for clocking-in at work but fingerprints cannot be transferred. Therefore, such systems eliminate all types of employee time theft and encourage employees to act ethically. The advantages of adopting biometric security are varied and vast while the cost and risk is low. Therefore, many businesses are rapidly adopting this technology in their existing systems to ensure better safety, security and reliability.
Organizations need to ensure the safety of their employees and the company premises. The integration of biometrics in access control systems guarantees that only the authorized individuals can access specific areas. A card or PIN based system has no way of knowing if the person in possession of the card or PIN is actually the authorized person. Fingerprint systems allow organizations to regulate access to the main company building as well as other areas within the facility.
In this article, we discussed that the adoption of fingerprint technology and background checks among governments, law enforcement agencies and business organizations is on a sharp growth curve. We have also seen the various factors that have attributed to this exponential growth. The most prominent benefit of biometric security is that it can prove the identity of individuals with a greater level of assurance than any other authentication mechanism.