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Biometrics for data security


By Biswanath Sengupta

The digital age is upon us. The increasing need for authentication to use various products and services is now a reality. While these are still early days, organisations across the world are waking up to the challenges of data security. On the other hand the advances in biometrics authentication provides one the most secure methods to thwart this challenge through the efficacious collection and utilization of data.

Security systems are unbreakable – is a myth, everything can be broken. Hence, the security systems built today are superior to other authentication processes. A huge benefit of using biometrics is that it’s extremely hard to fake. When measuring both – physiological and dynamic data, the information collected is unique for everyone and rarely changes over time. Once done correctly there is nothing more to do or even remember in some cases. Lost IDs or forgotten passwords may be rendered non-existent.

At the same time the increasing concern about data security has increased manifold the demand for biometrics. In India, the additional steps taken by the Government of India to adopt biometrics systems for identification and verification of data has further fuelled the demand in the market. The increasing use of biometrics in ecommerce and in cloud computing and also turning out to be key focus areas.

Companies in the global biometrics market are improving their product technology to provide more secure physical access to critical areas and information to authorized personnel. The iris and vein recognition technology are among the most secure biometric technologies. Palm, eyes and finger are the target areas for vein biometric technology. Veins are unique for each person and stays the same for lifetime which makes it more secured biometric technology. Moreover, this also eliminates the stigma of law enforcement associated with fingerprint technology, something that is a major concern in developed countries such as the U.S. Moreover, biometric vein reader can also read through surgical gloves. Awareness and adaptability to new biometric technologies would augment growth of the healthcare biometrics market.

India is witnessing a steep rise in the adoption and implementation of the biometrics technology. Government office and commercial establishments have already introduced Aadhaar enabled biometric systems. These are used for everyday tasks like to mark employees’ attendance or for the verification of individuals. In similar cases, biometrics for data security has been adopted by the consumer market followed by government, healthcare, finance, NGOs, law enforcement and defence.

Biometric data has emerged as an important tool in identity management, helping various industries reduce fraud and integrity risks. Aadhaar – a national ID system, created with a biometric identity system is a twelve digit, unique that can improve the efficiency and transparency of various e-Governance initiatives in the areas of food security (PDS), jobs (NREGA), health (JSY) etc. Various biometric authentication systems are gaining increasing market traction, gradually replacing conventional security systems like password/PIN protection.

Reports indicate that globally, the consumer market is the biggest adopter of biometrics technology including Iris and fingerprints scan technology followed by government, healthcare, finance, NGOs, law enforcement and defence. Reports also point to the largest used cases include consumer device authentication, automated teller machine (ATM) access, fraud reduction and aid distribution.

In the healthcare sector, biometrics finds applications in access control and data security. Organizations associated with healthcare such as manufacturing companies, insurers, hospitals, diagnostic laboratories, and clinical research organizations are potential targets for the use of biometric technology. In emerging economies like China, India, Indonesia and Brazil, the demand for healthcare IT systems is steadily increasing.

In India, the Reserve Bank of India has mandated that all scheduled commercial banks, urban and state cooperative banks, payment banks, ATM operations and authorized card payment networks migrate to Aadhaar-based biometric authentication for electronic payment transactions by 30 June 2017. The central bank has taken this action under the guidance of the Ministry of Finance in order to move towards stricter security even as the nation continues its shift to cashless transactions. The new authentication method for money transactions is much more advanced than the current two-steps method.

Biometrics will only play a larger role as automation seeps into every sphere of life. The rise of the Internet was just the beginning of the authentication process with people using it everywhere – for logging into their email and their social media profiles. Going forward username-password based authentication will be the thing of the past; the mostly tamper proof biometric identifiers would rule the roost.

The author is  project director, UIDAI, HCL Infosystems

If you have an interesting article / experience / case study to share, please get in touch with us at [email protected]

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