Top 5 Misconceptions about Biometric Security

Security continues to be one of the great challenges of the 21st century, and the threats are only growing. I've already discussed some of the risks social media use poses, and much has been written on the fallibility of passwords. Could biometrics be the silver bullet?

Before we can answer that question, we need to set aside the common misconceptions people have about biometric technology, and start to view it as a valid option in today's business world. I spoke with John Trader, communications specialist at M2SYS Technology, for insight.

"After 9/11, I think the expectation from biometric hardware and software providers was that biometric technology would take off and in five years three quarters of the world would be using biometrics," Trader said. "It never happened. The actual explosion or growth has only happened in the last two years. It has taken a long time for people to embrace the technology because of the misunderstandings of how it works."

So what are these misconceptions that have caused such a lapse in implementation? Here are the top five:

  1. Biometrics is too complex to install and maintain, and it will disrupt my existing infrastructure. Any biometrics company you work with will walk you through installation, and maintenance is as simple as maintaining the actual reader devices. And integration is not a problem—M2SYS' solution, for instance, integrates with the leading HR software from providers such as Kronos and ADP.
  2. Biometrics isn't safe—that data could get stolen. The idea here is that it's bad enough to have a password or PIN stolen, but what happens when someone steals your fingerprint? I've discussed this with several biometrics companies, and they have all ensured me that the biometric data is encrypted and no images are really stored—only a mathematical representation that is nearly impossible to re-engineer. "I have yet to come across one single story or case where someone's biometric identity is stolen and used for nefarious purposes," Trader said. "I've scoured the Internet. I've talked to professionals. Nobody knows of a case where this has actually happened."
  3. It can't work or isn't practical for my organization/situation. Many organizations think biometrics are ideal only for government agencies and organizations super concerned about security. But really, biometrics offer a variety of different advantages, such as saving time (single-sign on to avoid password resets, reducing time and Help desk calls); reducing waste (getting rid of time slips, punch cards, etc.); and security.
  4. The technology isn't there yet—too many false positives and false negatives. While it's true that fingerprint scanning has some false positives and false negatives, the more sophisticated technologies (such as finger and palm vein scans) have very high accuracy rates, regardless of work conditions that could compromise the sample. With M2SYS' Hybrid Biometric Platform, you can use different kinds of biometric readers for different applications and have it all integrate in one system, so you have less fear of getting stuck in a system that doesn't work for everyone.
  5. It's too expensive.  Probably the biggest reason biometrics are not used is because they're considered too expensive. "I think it's a basic misunderstanding of the long-term savings you can achieve using biometric technology," Trader said. "People are only thinking of the up-front cost. They aren't thinking about, 'How much can I save with not having to print ID cards? How much time can I save my payroll department for not having to reconcile time sheets? Biometrics offers the best price for your return on investment."

What do you think? Have you looked into biometrics security for your organization? What kept you from implementing? Send me an email or tweet to continue to the conversation. Here's a closing thought from Trader:

"Biometric technology is here to stay. It's not going anywhere. And when you compare it to other things, it really is the most secure technology that's out there. If we had to look into the future, the future is buying a biometric system after doing your homework and realizing you need a system that will accommodate the diversity of the people that are working for you."


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