Unlocking the Power of Biometric Authentication with Behavior Analytics

Friday, January 04, 2019

Jackson Shaw

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There are three common types of authentication: something you know (like a password), something you have (like a smart card), and something you are (like a fingerprint or another biometric method). Modern best practices recommend that you use at least two of these in parallel to be able to truly secure your identity as you logon to digital resources -- a practice otherwise known as two-factor authentication (2FA).

Biomerics exploded onto the scene in 2013 with the introduction of Apple’s iPhone 5S Touch ID fingerprint scanning technology. In 2017, Apple pushed facial recognition into the mainstream with its Face ID technology, introduced as the latest authentication feature in its iPhone X model. While common in many circles for years, Biometric technologies have now become widely recognized as more secure forms of authentication over the traditional password or token for a wider range of technology needs. But while we do all have a unique face, fingerprint, and irises, even basic biometric authentication has its limits.

Take, for example, the famous researcher from Yokohama National University, who created a graphite mold from a picture of a latent fingerprint on a wine glass that fooled scanners eight times out of ten. Or researchers at UNC, who built digital models of faces from Facebook photos that with 3D and VR technologies were convincing enough to bypass four out of the five authentication systems tested. These instances both highlight that basic biometric technology should not be considered a fool-proof security method.

Taking Biometrics to the Next Level

Fortunately, there is another form of biometrics that can be leveraged for authentication and is dynamic, changing continuously, but predictable over a long period of time. This is behavior biometrics, or the way users interact with their environment. Examples include the style and speed that users type a keyboard or the way they move and click their mouse.

Unlike basic biometrics such as a fingerprint or facial scanning that simply ask for authentication at the beginning of a task but have no on-going oversight into what is being done, behavioral biometrics can be analyzed throughout a given activity from start to finish. Through constant analysis of these dynamic behaviors, IT security teams can identify anomalies within the behaviors, alerting them to a potential intrusion or misuse of identities and enabling them to act quickly to remediate any issues.

In many cases, criminals can spend days, weeks or even months in the IT system before being detected. Continuous analysis of behavioral biometrics cripples a hackers’ ability to stay silent within the network.

Beyond Real-Time Detection

Behavior biometrics enables security analysts to produce false alerts and respond to the most important security risks. These teams are often already overwhelmed by thousands of false alerts generated by their existing security solutions, making it difficult to sort through the noise. Behavior biometrics equips security analysis with one of the most accurate ways to track potential threats -- anomalies -- and provides alerts without false or unnecessary flags.

As biometrics continues to gain popularity in the authentication world, it’s important to keep in mind that multi-factor authentication is critical and behavior biometrics alone are not enough to fully protect your business. The key is to always pair traditional authentication with either a password, token, SMS verification, smart card, or biometric authentication. Verifying users’ identities is critical to safeguarding today’s digital business, and two-factor authentication is vital to ensuring those identities are verified with the utmost accuracy.

About the author: Jackson Shaw is senior director of product management at One Identity, an identity and access management company formerly under Dell. Jackson has been leading security, directory and identity initiatives for 25 years.

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