What is biometrics?
DEFINITION OF BIOMETRICS
The word biometrics comes from the Greek words bi’os (life) and me’tron (measure). The Biometrics Research Group defines biometrics as measurable physical and behavioural properties that make it possible to authenticate an individual person’s identity. Biometrics is used as a collective term for the technologies used to measure a person’s unique characteristics and thus authenticate his or her identity.
Biometrics involves measuring either an individual’s personal attributes (e.g., fingerprint, iris) or something they do (e.g., movement patterns, speech). Biometric technologies are automatic systems set up in order to: (1) collect biometric information (e.g., fingerprints) from a person; (2) extract information from the material for a template; (3) compare information from templates saved previously; (4) determine whether the biometric information is identical. Biometric technologies therefore consist of both hardware such as fingerprint sensors or cameras. These can physically read the biometric information. In addition, software is needed that together with the hardware collects the biometric information and then extracts, compares and verifies the information.
LIVENESS AND ANTISPOOF
In addition to verifying that a certain biometric information comes from a certain person, they often also want to ensure that the biometric information comes from a living, physical person. In order to prevent fraudsters from attempting to fool the systems by collecting e.g. a fingerprint from an object and then creating different impressions of e.g. clay, glue, gelatine, etc., different forms of anti-spoof protection are used. These can be directly in the hardware; some sensors can, for example, read whether the material conducts current, like a finger, or illuminate a finger with different lights to see the inner layers of the skin. Other solutions use software optimized to recognize differences in materials. Some systems use a combination of both hardware and software-based anti-spoof protection.
Central to the user experience of a biometric solution is that it is comfortable for the user and works with the greatest possible security. For a good user experience, the system normally also needs to be quick to process the information in order to verify the individual. For example, you don’t want to have to wait for the phone to be unlocked or for you to be let into a property with your fingerprint or face. Ideally, you should be able to use a biometric solution as automatically and easily as possible, while at the same time achieving a high level of built-in security with a biometric system.
The terms FAR (False Acceptance Rate) and FRR (False Rejection Rate) are used to describe the security of a solution. These terms have a symbiotic relationship with one another and are determined by the limits in the software. A low FAR means a more secure solution (no unauthorized persons are allowed in), but it can result in a high FRR (more authorized persons are denied). A high-quality biometric system with a good user experience provides rapid authentication and has a high level of accuracy (low FAR and FRR values). A four-digit PIN code corresponds to a security level of 1/10,000, which means that one person in 10,000 gains unauthorized access. This can be compared with the high level of security commonly used for fingerprint technology in modern mobile phones, where one user in 50,000 gains unauthorized access. This level of security is even higher in certain phones.
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