A single data breach is one too many. And with CSO reporting a total of 5 billion records compromised globally in 2018 alone, there is much and more to be done in the world of cybersecurity. Biometrics forms an important part of that conversation.
The state of smartphone biometrics
In this regard, we previously compiled a list of notable updates in 2018 here on the Bayometric blog, which outlines how strategists and developers are paving the way for more advanced security biometrics around the world. For instance, developers are currently working on combining biometrics with blockchain technology, or the immutable, secure, and decentralized digital ledger that makes cryptocurrencies work. Moreover, smartphone models are also beginning to embrace both AI-driven facial recognition and computer vision for better authentication and security.
More recently, Samsung also launched the first smartphone model to achieve FIDO Biometric Certification, a move that underpins how crucial mobile phones have become today, as they store sensitive information and conduct increasingly critical transactions. At the moment, most other phones on the market have biometric features, with fingerprint sensors, retina scanners, and facial recognition technology successfully integrated.
But now that we are well into 2019, it would be helpful to discuss what’s next for the technology, and what we can all expect with smartphone biometric security in the near future.
While the existence of these biometric security measures on smartphones is already a big development, there is still a lot of room for improvement.
For instance, ZDNet reveals that the facial recognition systems on some smartphones don’t always work as intended. In a study conducted by Dutch researchers, it was found that 42 out of the 110 smartphone models had failed the “photo test.” This is a simple experiment that entails using a printed photograph of a person — that was sourced from social media, CCTV footage, or even stolen photos — to fool a smartphone’s facial recognition security system and access its contents. These are crucial findings; given that printed images will be the first step anyone looking to breach facial recognition technology will try, effectively rendering these vulnerable systems useless. What’s even more worrying is that smartphone models that failed the exam belonged to a wide array of popular brands, from Asus and Blackberry, to Samsung and Xiaomi.
Given the findings, developers and brands will need to address these shortcomings in the current smartphone biometric technologies in 2019.
Flesh and blood: the next frontier
On top of improving existing biometrics features, tech companies are also set to continue innovating in 2019. A new patent from Apple suggests that future Apple Watches will have a new biometrics feature. The patent describes the use of sensors that can detect the wearer’s skin texture pattern. This mechanism would allow users to automatically unlock the watch when worn.
While this is all merely speculation for now, the technology can open up more opportunities for development. The sensors could be used to track electric fields or even distinguish hair from the texture of the skin. This would give a more accurate reading and tighter security for the user.
Meanwhile, the ECU Security Research Institute dives into a new security system currently being explored by Australian researchers, which involves scanning the veins within a finger. The technology would combine image data and minutiae-based data so that it can accurately recognize both fingerprints and the veins in your finger. The researchers point out that a person’s fingerprints are normally left everywhere, which makes it extremely easy to duplicate them with adhesives to compromise a fingerprint-sensing device. Therefore, a sensor designed to recognize finger veins would add another layer of security to the authentication process.
Samsung also recently unveiled the new Galaxy Watch Active, which boasts a blood pressure monitoring feature. The feature will arrive soon through an app called BP Lab. Not much has been said about how the watch app version works, but the smartphone version of the app uses an optical sensor to take measurements. It would also need a sphygmomanometer in order to calibrate the sensor. If further explored, this could also have the potential to be an authentication and security measure.
What does the public need to know?
While new developments are beginning to emerge, it still pays for users to educate themselves about cybersecurity in general so that they understand the significance of utilizing biometric authentication and have a working knowledge of the principles behind them. Maryville University notes that information technology changes constantly, hence the need for people to stay informed on the data produced by new technologies and how best to use them. With adequate research and knowledge, a person can handle the threats that come with new technology. This also entails have a good eye for devices with reliable biometrics features.
All in all, the smartphone industry is highly competitive, especially with companies launching new models every year. In today’s digital climate, it has become common for many brands to boast about their new biometric sensors. But an educated user should be able to see past the PR and test whether these claims hold up — after all, their data and security are on the line.