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BIOMETRICS BRING MULTI-FACTOR AUTHENTICATION TO THE NEXT LEVEL

The conflict in Ukraine has heightened concerns that Putin
and his allies will escalate cyberattacks against the west.
As sanctions continue to squeeze the Russian economy,
The Harvard Business Review argues that U.S. and Western
corporations may now face the most acute cyber risks ever as
Russia strikes back using its considerable cyber capabilities.1 The
CISA, FBI, and NSA recommend that organizations enhance their
cyber posture, including the use of multi-factor authentication for
all users of identity and access management applications. 2

The most familiar form of multi-factor authentication combines
a username and password with a randomly generated SMS
code. When we’re asked to enter the texted code before
accessing a software application or online service, the host is
attempting to verify that we are who we say we are. It assumes
that we’re probably not an imposter if we can retrieve the code.
Other examples of multi-factor authentication are access
control readers that require both a card and PIN code to enter
a building, or software that asks a series of security questions
– like the name of our first pet or elementary school – after we
provide a username and password.

Unfortunately, none of these forms of multi-factor
authentication are as secure as we once thought them to
be. Many of us have bypassed them ourselves, on occasion,
without thinking twice. For example, maybe you’ve logged into
Netflix using a friend’s account, and the friend has texted you
the SMS code they received so that you can enter it and fool
the system. Or, you’ve shared a single software license with
multiple colleagues, texting the SMS code to each other
as needed.

The security of dual PIN and card readers may also be
circumvented. While the PIN requirement may prevent a stolen
card from being used, family members, friends, and colleagues
sometimes share cards and PIN codes with each other, or use
a code that’s easy to guess.

Hackers, too, have found ways to bypass multi-factor
authentication. Through phishing and social engineering,
users unwittingly provide them with the information they
need to redirect where SMS texts are sent or answer personal
knowledge questions.

 

Yahoo and LinkedIn have both suffered massive security
breaches, despite having two-factor authentication in place at
the time of their respective attacks. Since 2012, usernames
and passwords for three billion Yahoo users and 167 million
LinkedIn users have been compromised.3

Now, with cyber threats ratcheted to new heights, how can
organizations ensure that their multi-factor authentication
is infallible? The answer lies in biometrics. Biometric identity
solutions can be integrated within physical and logical security
applications, creating a virtually impenetrable obstacle for
imposters.

Biometrics replace knowledge-based identifiers with
physiological ones, like fingerprints, vein patterns, or facial
geometry. The patterns within the iris, for example, are so
unique to each individual that a false match occurs less
frequently than once in one million. Furthermore, bad actors
cannot reverse engineer an “iris” to match that of an enrolled
user. When combined with another form of authentication –
be it a secondary biometric modality, a physical card or fob,
a mobile credential, or password – there is no more secure
identity management solution available.

Biometrics are already making inroads in physical security
applications. They’re being used to secure mission-critical
locations like data centers, utilities, building infrastructure,
bank vaults, drug closets, and laboratories. Dual authentication
is achieved by storing an enrollee’s biometric data on a 13.56
MHz access control SmartCard or smartphone. Possessing
the credential is no longer sufficient to gain entry. Users
must also physically match the biometric data stored on the
presented credential.

Biometrics can also play a role as companies seek to
implement Zero Trust policies to protect their networks. Zero
Trust architecture requires users to verify and authenticate
their identity each time they initiate an interaction with
the server. Opening software, opening a file, editing a file,
saving a file, and sending an email all require verification and
authentication. It is far faster and easier for an employee to
place a finger on a reader or look into a camera than it is to
enter a long, difficult password over and over again. It’s also
much more secure. As most companies intend to maintain a
hybrid workforce moving forward, biometric solutions tied to
Zero Trust protocols can ensure employees VPN-ing
from home pose no greater risk to network security than
those on site.

In our digitally interconnected world, practicing good cyber
hygiene and investing in necessary security technologies
should not be new to any organization. Hopefully, your
company has systematically reviewed and upgraded its
cyber posture over time. However, implementing cyber best
practices has never been more critical than now. All U.S.
government security agencies advocate the use of multifactor
authentication. Incorporating biometrics as part of your
plan will deliver the greatest efficacy. Today’s systems are
surprisingly affordable and easy to install. And, by any measure,
they’re a true bargain compared to the cost of a crippling,
devastating network breach.

ABOUT PRINCETON IDENTITY
Princeton Identity is the identity management company
powered by biometrics, making security more convenient,
accurate, and reliable than ever before. Leading the
revolution toward a more intuitive, efficient, and natural
security experience that keeps people and businesses moving,
Princeton Identity uses iris recognition, face recognition, and
other biometric technology to enable businesses, governments,
and global organizations to streamline identity management,
resulting in improved safety and protection. Formerly a division
within SRI International, Princeton Identity spun out as an
independent venture in August 2016.

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