What is iris scanning and where is it used?

In an era of constant hacking threats, traditional usernames and passwords are more vulnerable than ever. As well as being increasingly difficult to remember as they get more complex, it’s still possible for hackers or other third parties to crack them. To improve security and provide a better consumer experience, many companies and sectors are looking at providing additional security layers by which users can identify themselves. Biometric approaches, a topic we have touched on before, are becoming a popular choice with iris scanning being increasingly adopted into everyday life.

Iris scanning offers a much simpler alternative to remembering passwords and usernames. All a user needs to do is register their iris on a database (not the retina – retinal scanning uses a different part of the eye), which then matches the unique pattern against its records automatically. Not only does this provide a quicker and more reliable means of authentication, but it’s also totally unique to you – making life much more difficult for a hacker. It’s far easier to guess someone’s password than impersonate the unique make-up of their eyes!

Whilst in the past, it has been reserved for sensitive applications such as the security of military sites, it’s now developing rapidly through applications in the public domain. We’re already seeing iris scanning adopted in several scenarios:

  • Smartphones – the recent Samsung Galaxy S8, which we discussed on our main blog, comes with several biometric authentication options, including iris scanning. To unlock their mobile, all a user needs to do is look into their device
  • Banking – one bank in the UK, TSB, recently introduced an iris scanning facility for its customers who have the Samsung Galaxy S8 phone
  • Borders – some countries use iris or retinal scanning at their borders. These include the UAE and Jordan. The technology allows officials to immediately identify and grant access to passengers, while speeding up the queuing process for travellers

We’re really pleased to see biometric authentication growing in popularity, but it needs to be implemented correctly and securely to build consumer trust and confidence in the technology. Databases of biometric reference data (such as iris scans or fingerprints) need to be tightly protected and iris scanning should preferably be combined with another means of authentication, such as fingerprint sensors, to reinforce the level of security.

Wish to know more about Gemalto’s very own Cogent Iris Scanner? Click here. Or, if you have any questions about iris scanning, let us know in the comment section below or by tweeting to us at @JustAskGemalto.