Biometric systems measure the physical traits of users to offer a high level of security. As part of their nature biometric security requires users be present in order to log into the systems they protect. Biometric systems typically rely on the combination of a biometric trait and a password. They can also rely on the use of an access card, resulting in a situation where there are three forms of security present to access a system.
Biometrics measure physical traits such as hand geometry, retinal patterns, facial scans, fingerprints or voice patterns. The use of biometrics has a potential in a number of situations where security requirements are greater than the typical username and password combination. Fingerprint scans are relatively quick, taking approximately 2-3 seconds on average.
Biometric systems can be trained to work for multiple users. They can authorize different levels of access to systems. A fingerprint sensor can be used in conjunction with a Biometric plug-in for FileMaker database security. The Biometric plug-in does not work directly with or replace FileMaker’s built-in password scheme. Instead it offers another layer of security directly within FileMaker
It is possible to fool a biometric system. No security system is truly foolproof. However, biometrics offer a new layer of security that would otherwise not be present. Requiring passwords in conjunction with a biometric trait such as a fingerprint is better than allowing authentication based solely on the biometric trait. By matching the password to the biometric trait the system becomes more secure than if it was using just one of the two security mechanisms.
Biometric systems aren’t as expensive as they once were. For example, Puppy Suite for Mac OS X Fingerprint Identification Unit and authentication software bundle. Lightweight and small, the Puppy unit offers the ultimate in convenience with a new level of safekeeping. The Puppy ranges from $80 to $130. USB drives that provide biometric authentication are fairly inexpensive now as well, with at least 10 companies offering products.
While there are few other solid packages for Mac OS X, it is possible to purchase Windows-based biometric solutions for as low as $30. There is a biometric mouse called the BioMouse. IBM has perhaps gone as far with their laptops as any other company in biometric product offerings with a laptop that does not boot without the use of a fingerprint from an authorized user.
Biometrics is going to become an integral component of security. As the price of biometric solutions comes down the product offerings are becoming more numerous. While most biometrics are not foolproof, they do offer an additional layer of security in an emergently insecure world where Information Technology is concerned.