For decades, passwords have been the first line of defense for user accounts, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re foolproof. The idea behind passwords is to identify an individual by asking them to provide a code that only they would know. However, passwords are not unique identifiers. Other people can steal and guess your passwords to gain access to your accounts with ease. This explains why over 25% of data breaches reported by Australian businesses in early 2020 were a result of compromised login credentials.
Instead of relying on this antiquated security measure, more businesses should consider biometric authentication to level up their cybersecurity.
What is biometric authentication?
Biometric authentication refers to the process of measuring an individual’s physical traits to verify their identity. Examples of physical traits used for biometric authentication include fingerprints, facial profiles, and voice patterns. Typically, a user provides any of these identifiers to a specialised device, which is then compared to pre-recorded biometric information stored in a secure database. If both samples of biometric data match, the user is granted access to the device, account, or location.
Microsoft sign-in services like Windows Hello for Business currently support a variety of biometric verification, offering features like:
- Facial recognition – utilises cameras with near infrared imaging features to capture a person’s facial characteristics
- Iris detection – scans the area surrounding the pupil for unique patterns that identify a person
- Fingerprint scans – identifies the distinctive ridges of the person’s fingertips, often found on smartphones and laptops with built-in fingerprint readers
- Voice verification – analyses speech patterns and voice characteristics as users speak into their device’s microphone
Enhancing account security
What makes biometric authentication so powerful is that it requires users to provide physical proof of their identity. Devices and accounts unlock only when they detect an approved user’s unique characteristics, making it extremely difficult for imposters to hijack accounts.
In fact, biometric data is nearly impossible to replicate or forge. Even a high-resolution photo of someone’s face is unlikely to provide the details necessary for a facial or iris recognition scan. When combined with other authentication methods, such as security PINs and one-time SMS verification codes, biometrics dramatically minimises the risk of account takeover.
Enabling biometric authentication also means you can eliminate one of the biggest vulnerabilities in your security framework: passwords. While passwords have been cybersecurity’s primary identity authentication method, people don’t always have the best security habits.
Many users tend to set short and weak passwords like ‘123456’ and ‘password’, giving hackers easy access to company accounts. Others also recycle their passwords across different accounts, which allow hackers to cause even greater damage if they get a hold of just one set of credentials. Everyone has been guilty of these password offences, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, so replacing passwords with biometric authentication is the more secure alternative.
What’s more, services like Windows Hello for Business allow you to make biometric authentication mandatory for company-managed devices. This is particularly useful for businesses that are increasingly moving to remote work environments. You can limit access to company applications and information based on biometric data, which is crucial to deploying a zero trust security model.
Reducing costs associated with account management
Passwords are expensive because users frequently forget them. This often leads to a significant chunk of the workday wasted on resetting or recovering a lost password, which means major productivity loss. The business also incurs hard costs if a system administrator is responsible for resetting a user’s password.
By contrast, biometric authentication is much more cost-effective. Users don’t need to remember a long string of letters and numbers, so costs associated with password resets are nonexistent. Plus, since it’s harder for cybercriminals to trick biometric systems, there’s a lower chance of data breaches and, by extension, hefty financial losses.
Safeguarding user privacy
Despite the benefits of biometric authentication, there are some serious privacy concerns. For one, biometric data may become an attractive target for hackers who want to compromise business accounts. Secondly, biometric databases can be vulnerable to attacks, fully exposing a person’s login credentials for good. After all, while it’s easy to reset a password when the old one has been compromised, you can’t reset someone’s fingerprints.
Microsoft addresses these issues with powerful privacy protections. Windows Hello only saves biometric data on company-approved devices and is never sent to a Microsoft database. Moreover, biometric data is secured with military-grade encryption before it’s stored on the device.
However, if your authentication data is stored in company servers and devices, it’s imperative that both elements are properly secured. In addition to encryption, you also need advanced threat prevention systems, next-generation firewalls, endpoint protection tools, and anti-malware software, just to name a few. Managed IT services providers (MSPs) who specialise in cybersecurity can provide you these tools.
As one of Australia’s top MSPs, Empower IT offers all the protections and expertise necessary to make biometric authentication work for your business. Contact us today to defend your systems, accounts, and data from the most sophisticated threats.