6. Physical methods - biometrics

Biometrics means to measure and analyse some human characteristic in order to correctly identify an individual. Examples of physical characteristics which can be used are:

  • fingerprints
  • voice patterns
  • retinas or irises
  • facial patterns
  • palm prints

biometric scannerThe use of biometrics is becoming more commonplace as the techniques are refined and become more reliable.

Many businesses now use biometrics as a method of allowing access to buildings and information held on computer systems. Governments such as the UK are including biometric identifiers in passports.

To use biometrics an organisation needs:

  • A reader or scanning device that takes a biometric reading from a person
  • Software that can convert the scanned information into digital format for the computer to use. This computer identifies the 'match points' from the digital information
  • Once the match points have been identified the data is compared to all of the records held in the company biometric database. If a matching record is found the individual can be positively identified.

Biometric identification is believed to be more secure than many other methods because the physical characteristics are unique to every individual and cannot be easily lost, stolen or copied.

However, biometric systems are far from being foolproof. Most systems have a significant number of false accept rates and false reject rates. This might be a reason as to why they are not yet as widely available as a physical method of security as many other more conventional methods.


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Click on this link: Biometrics