Biometrics as your Password

By: Eric Bermel

Passwords, PIN numbers and post-it-notes, what do these have in common?  How many of you have your  Passwords and/or  PINs written on post it notes and ‘stashed’ somewhere near your keyboard.

I know I have some quickly scrawled and painful to read passwords, usernames or both on post-it-notes.  Often comes the mad scramble to remember the combination, or more commonly, WHERE did I put the post-it-note with the information. This usually happens when you’re trying log into your online banking page, VPN access account, or perhaps your child’s online school records.

Then, if all else fails and the post it fails to materialize, it’s the inevitable and unenviable call-of-shame to local or global IT staff to request a password reset.

What if all of that pain could be removed, or at least reduced, using biometrics? That is, no more remembering usernames and passwords.  Imagine if WHO YOU ARE would be all that’s required to let you into your computer, your tablet or your mobile phone.

Biometrics has been a spooky, futuristic application in Hollywood movies, or thought of as purely science fiction for years.   However, we’re now seeing the reality of biometrics as it moves into the mainstream.   In the early 21st century, biometrics is indeed a reality and is fast approaching widespread adoption.

Companies, such as Apple and Samsung, are introducing biometrics to the masses.  Fingerprint sensors on smartphones, video capture facial recognition, voice recognition, iris, even the gait of your walk or your repetitive, recognizable keyboard movements are all forms of biometrics that have been tested for use in  identification, authentication, and  authorization

Besides making passwords obsolete and streamlining logins, biometrics can also protect against identity theft. Identity theft cost Americans 1.5 Billion in 2011!  That number can only increase as more and more people use smartphones, tablets, and netbooks to connect and conduct everyday business.

Protecting against identity theft should be the top priority for everyone online. Sadly, most people don’t think twice about mobile banking and buying.  They assume that the companies will take all the precautions necessary to protect them.  One only needs to look at the Target breach as the latest glaring example of the failure of this assumption.

The banking industry has just recently embraced biometrics for added protection of their customers.  Many banks have adopted voice authorization as a primary authenticator for remote transactions.

Financial institutions that offer voice authentication are finding that this additional level of security not only assures customers that their transactions will be secure, but also provides an improved overall experience by not imposing them with another PIN or password to keep track of.

Biometrics as your password has arrived and it’s fast becoming the de facto standard for verification, authentication and authorization. The possibilities are really endless when you think about the ubiquity of the smartphone.  Soon you may buy clothes, enter your building and remotely start your car all by using only your mobile device and your personal biometric attributes. The future is NOW for biometrics and the password can now be formally killed as a method of access. Embrace biometrics and get rid of the post-it-notes.  It’s easy and much less frustrating.