What Is Biometric Verification?
Biometric verification is a way to identify individuals based on their unique characteristics or body measurements – for example, their face, fingerprints or voice.
Breaking down the word, we get bio- and -metrics:
- bio– as in biology, to describe the biological features we have on our body
- –metrics as the way to measure something (think geometry or optometry)
How Does Biometric Verification Work?
Biometrics is a way to capture, measure and identify characteristics that are unique to each person, such as their exact voice, unique fingerprints, the irises in their eyes or even part of their face – or their entire face.
Since these are unique to each individual, biometrics can provide a quick and generally safe way to identify or verify them. In comes biometric identification and verification, which includes facial recognition, fingerprint verification and more.
In general terms, biometrics as a way to verify a user’s or customer’s identity are a mixed friction and efficiency method, depending on the type of biometrics used, or even how many different types are used.
For example, a fingerprint is low friction but asking someone to both scan an ID document and take a selfie is high friction.
While scanning a fingerprint or a face is much faster than having someone type their password or remember a PIN, false positives and false negatives can occur depending on the type and quality of biometric verification used and can be frustrating for customers as well as organizations.
3 Examples of Biometric Verification
Common examples of biometric verification include the following:
Biometric verification may be more commonly known in the 21st century, thanks to its everyday application in areas such as security systems, forensics and even handheld consumer tech, but its roots go back millennia.
In fact, the oldest, most primitive form of biometric identification is fingerprints, believed to have been used in ancient China as far back as 850 BC, where emperors used their fingerprints to authenticate official documents.
Today, fingerprint biometric verification is used with mobile phones, security locks, passports and more.
Our facial features in isolation, as well as the sum of our face’s parts, also constitute biometrics and can therefore be used for biometric verification.
This typically means a face match algorithm checks whether two faces (one on record and one presented) belong to the same person, thus verifying their identity.
Increasingly used in fintech, by online-focused companies looking to verify their users, by border authorities and more, according to Statista, the facial recognition market size is more than USD 3.8bn worldwide and continues its rise.
With USD 10.7bn revenue in 2020, voice recognition is among the most frequently implemented and used types of biometric verification.
This can be as simple as having a digital assistant such as Siri or Alexa recognize its user’s voice in order to execute certain commands, or as complicated as a way to confirm one’s identity when looking to conduct phone banking.
Why Is Biometric Verification Important?
Biometric verification is important in several sectors of our online as well as offline activity.
Because biometrics always uses features that are unique to each person, this method of verifying someone’s identity is:
- highly reliable, as no two people are the same
- easy to use, as the user doesn’t need anything but themselves
- difficult to fool
According to a Goode Intelligence survey published in April 2021, 73% of responding companies use biometrics to provide a better experience for customers, and 75% use it for identity verification – with even wider adoption expected in the years to come.
How Does Biometric Verification Help Fight Fraud?
Biometrics are not just one tool but an entire arsenal in the fight against fraud, both physical and digital, in ecommerce, cybersecurity and where they overlap.
This can mean anything from asking users to scan their ID or passport and then take a selfie to prove who they are, to complicated algorithms tracking user behavior or typing habits.
At their most sophisticated, types of biometrics that can be used against fraud include:
- behavioral biometrics – which analyze a person’s behavior to identify them
- linguistic biometrics – measuring and identifying the way one structures their sentences, preferences for certain words, and so on
- DNA matching – identifying a person based on their unique DNA genome
- typing recognition – identifying someone based on their keyboard typing patterns, including speed, error rate and type of errors etc.
As well as simpler biometrics, which we find in consumer electronics, such as:
- iris recognition
- hand or finger geometry
- facial recognition
- voice recognition
- fingerprint recognition
Is Biometric Verification Used in Multi-Factor Authentication?
Yes, biometrics are one of the key elements of MFA (multi-factor authentication).
Two-factor authentication as well as multi-factor authentication involve two or more of:
- something the user knows (e.g. password or PIN)
- something the user has (e.g. mobile phone or card)
- something the user is (e.g. their fingerprint or voice)
This last element, “something the user is”, is biometrics, which can constitute one of the factors checked and authenticated and 2FA or MFA.
What Is Biometric Spoofing?
Biometric spoofing is when criminals use fake biometrics to gain access to accounts, funds or even spaces they should not have access to.
To stop these, cybersecurity experts working in fraud detection use sophisticated tools such as liveliness detection and spoof detection.
What Are Some Other Ways of User Verification?
Alternative/additional methods of user verification include:
- Authenticating identity documents such as passports and driving licenses
- IP analysis
- Device fingerprinting, including device cache and browser cache for returning users
- Digital footprint analysis and data enrichment starting from a user’s email address or phone number
You can try out the latter option using SEON’s module below. Just enter an email address or phone number to find out the legitimacy of a person:
Statista: Biometric technologies – Statistics & Facts
Goode Intelligence: The Goode Intelligence Biometric Survey 2021
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