Biometric Scanning: its Pros and Cons

Biometric scanning is the future they say. But how secure is it really? With all the recent technology made in biometric scanning, you might be wondering what is the actual risk involved in using these devices and is it really impossible for someone to steal my identity through them. The short answer is No. It’s not impossible, but it is significantly trickier. Take your fingerprint and the same way you think a credit card. It’s really just a string of numbers from a computer network. The difference is unlike credit card numbers or passwords, your fingerprint can’t be lost or misplaced but also can’t be changed once it gets stolen and that’s where the real security issue comes in.

We consider that all that information is stored in a database somewhere. The hackers are going to target it, assuming there’s no encryption involved. Once that information gets stolen, there are many ways to take advantage of it. Many of the companies that manufacture fingerprint scanners like to claim that their technology is unbreakable but as the Mythbusters proved back in 2006 all it takes to steal one is a little bit of dedication. In their episode they successfully cracked a scanner using 3 different methods. The first one,they copied someone’s finger print onto a latex glove and then use that to open the door. The second time they manage to create a copy of a fingerprint using ballistic shell which is just gelatin water and the third time all it took was a photocopy of someone’s fingerprint and a little bit of saliva.

You may also remember how Apple’s iPhone 5S which came with a touch ID fingerprint scanner built in was hacked by researchers just one day after it launched. Scientist managed to crack it using a cheap domestic scanner to create a photograph print left on the glass screen. Granted it was not an easy process. But for the criminally inclined who had a lot of time on their hands, it’s still doable. Some companies are currently dabbling in both retina and iris scanners but how secure are they?

Retina scanners work by shooting invisible infrared light into your eyeball and measuring the pattern of light it pickup and reflected back which is unique for every person. Unfortunately, certain diseases like glaucoma or diabetes can change that pattern over time potentially locking you out of your own devices. Iris scanners work in a similar way and that they shoot near-invisible infrared light into your eye and use it back to replicate intricacies and your iris. For the most part, it’s considered superior biometric scanning. They can be done from a greater distance so its less intrusive. Your irises are not as susceptible to disease as your retina. So, unless you suffer from a serious eye injury pretty much it will remained the same throughout your life. As far as biometric scanning goes, iris appears to be the final frontier. So we shouldn’t be surprised if our phone start coming out with technology built-in a few years from now.