Mobile Biometric Authentication Explained

Passwords are certainly not as secure as they once were. Recently, the founder of an influential guide to computer passwords stated that he regretted his original tips as they are now out of date. As cyber security becomes an increasingly hot topic with breaches now a regular occurrence, companies are having to be innovative and demonstrate new ways to secure devices. One of these methods is through mobile biometric authentication.

Rather than rely on passwords, biometrics allow you to use your identity to unlock devices and information. As previously discussed, biometrics are a set of unique characteristics or physical features that make you identifiable. It answers the “something you are” question that is very hard to fake. This method of authentication is a popular choice as it is very secure and has been in use for years with fingerprint readers. Now it is evolving to include your facial characteristics and event your iris.

Biometric authentication is quick, secure and simple to use. Outside of smartphones, the process is often used as a part of multifactor authentication when trying to access business data or secure sites. You might have seen this when trying to log into a bank account and you’re prompted to enter a code sent as an SMS to the account holder’s phone. This is the “something you have” part of authentication, that adds another layer of security. This is very important as if your password is stolen, without your phone a hacker cannot access the service.

However, mobile authentication is an all-encompassing term and is not solely refined to biometrics. Non-text based passwords, such as typing symbols within a randomly generated matrix or a sequence of points on a photo, are forms of robust mobile authentication. As most highly publicized breaches are attributed to weak or absent authentication (vulnerable passwords, unlocked laptops or wireless networks), these new verification methods can protect against unauthorized access.

It can be complicated, especially as our world becomes increasing digital. And while biometric security is a valuable tool in authenticating identity, it alone is enough for strong security. Three factors of authentication are the best way to prevent unauthorized access. These are:

  • something you know, such as a password
  • something you are, such as fingerprint or other biometric data
  • something you have, such as a phone or SMS code

So, the next time you sign-up for a new mobile service, that requires you to give up personal or sensitive data, ask if they are multiple ways to protect your information.