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SS-ICT4D Week 2018

Monday, March 26, 2018

Biometric 101: What you should know

This is our maiden edition of Talking Biometrics – a weekly online biometric education resource featuring valuable awareness on biometric identification and verification systems, with a focus on data protection, system security and efficiency. So, keep a date with us!
Introduction to Biometric Authentication Systems (BAS):
In this edition we introduce biometrics as one of many forms of authenticating a system user. We give emphasis to benefits of biometric technologies and highlight areas of global industrial use.

Types of Authentication:
Accessing information systems requires a means of confirming the claimed identity of the user. Any adopted means of verifying the identity of a system user is known as authentication. Authentication verifies that the person seeking access is indeed whom he claims to be. This process of authentication can be accomplished by any of three modes:

1.    Memory-based authentication: This requires the user to produce a memorized item (what the user knows). Examples include password, PIN number, memorized code, passphrase, etc. Unfortunately passwords can be shared, forgotten, compromised or stolen.
2.    Possession-based authentication: Here the user is required to produce a tangible item, or physical object (what the user has), as a confirmation of his claimed identity. Examples include proximity card, badge (Id Card), debit card, or other forms of tokens. Physical objects used for authentication have the disadvantage of being easily forged, stolen, misplaced or damaged.

3.    Nature-based authentication: Natural attributes used for authentication involve the use of certain human physiologies or behaviours as a means of authentication (what the user is). Examples include fingerprint, voice print, iris pattern, signature pattern, keyboard dynamics, gait, etc. These human physiological or behavioural attributes possess natural characteristics and properties that are unique, not easily damaged; and difficult to share or steal. They are collectively called biometrics. Digital systems that make use of biometric characteristics for identity verification are also called biometric systems, or more specifically Biometric Authentication Systems (BAS).

Advantages of Biometrics:
Biometric systems exhibit special advantages over tradition password and token-based authentication systems because they could not be shared, borrowed, reused, forgotten or easily circumvented.
Eg eyeballs cannot be forgotten in the shower or elsewhere, fingers cannot be borrowed or shared among friends, voice cannot be stolen. These benefits make biometrics a preferred option for secure authentication.
However, biometric authentication can be expensive to deploy and maintain depending on many factors such as area of deployment, type and choice of biometric system, additional features, among others.

Applications of Biometrics:
Biometric systems find great use in many areas:

·         Time and attendance systems:
Biometric systems are used to regulate and track entrance and exit into corporate premises, for example offices, shopping malls, schools, to name a few.

·         Access control:
Biometric authentication is used to control access into sensitive and protected facilities where maximum security is required, for instance, military facilities, nuclear facilities, airports, stadia, train station, among others.

·         Border and immigration management
Biometric technology facilitates efficient management of immigrants at land, air and sea borders.

·         Crime investigation
Biometrics finds great use in forensic examination in crime and disaster management, eg FBI’s cross-matching of fingerprints in Automatic Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS).

·         Civic registration and identity systems
Management of national identities is made possible by capturing citizens’ biometrics into a single or replicated database for several purposes including monitoring the demographics of birth and death rates, controlled allocation of benefits, etc.

·         Identity and Access Management (IAM)
IAM systems use biometric authentication to ensure that the right users access the right resources at the right time and for the right reasons. IAM is a major component of biometric-based eGovernment automated systems such as the Electronic Document management System (EDMS).

·         Electoral system
Biometrics find usefulness in the registration of credible voters to curb multiple voting, under aged voters, and avoidable disenfranchisement, etc.

·         Passport management
Biometrics has been adopted as a modern means binding travel passports with their owners and the data contained therein, hence biometric passports are universally usable across global borders.

·         Healthcare management
Biometrics finds great use in healthcare management systems where the biometric data of healthcare beneficiaries are captured, processed and stored in secure databases and later used to verify their identities at the points of care in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

About the columnist:

Kenneth Okereafor is an accomplished ICT professional and Cybersecurity expert with over 20 years experience in Enterprise ICT innovation management in private and public sector computing. He holds dual PhD Degrees in Computer Science (Cybersecurity) and Management (ICT Administration and Governance) with a first class Electronic & Telecommunications Engineering background. He is a United Nations trained Network Security Specialist and is proficient in Network Optimization, Data Protection, Biometric Systems and Digital Forensics. Kenneth has published many works, contributed to several national ICT assignments and participated at many international technology conferences. He has strong research interests in Cloud Security and Green Computing, and may be reached at nitelken@yahoo.com 

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