Biometric Authentication

Biometric authentication is a security process that in order to confirm and verify users' identity uses unique biological characteristics of an individual. Biometric authentication can be based on physiological and behavioral measurements.


What is biometric authentication?

Traditional biometric authentication takes advantage of the individual biological or physiological characteristics of a person to verify his or her request.

A biometric authentication solution stores user biometric data and then compares biometric factors to confirm the login attempt. The benefits of this approach over text based approach (passwords) is immediately visible. Biometric factors cannot be lost or forgotten like passwords often are. Biometrics can't be guessed or cracked in a way as passwords are. Big advantage of biometrics is the practically frictionless login process. A user doesn’t need to type, click or plug anything. He or she simply touches the fingerprint sensor or looks at a camera and the device does the authentication work immediately. The logins are instantaneous which leads to freeing up IT helpdesk from having to reset passwords over and over again.

Something that used to be the stuff of science fiction movies has quickly become a standard that most everyday users have not even realized they adopted in their lives. People unlock their phones by tapping a screen or a key with a fingerprint sensor. They unlock their devices by simply looking at them and letting the camera do the authentication for them. This standard has been adopted by most smartphone companies and most operating systems and is slowly making its way into enterprise software as well.

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What is FIDO2 authentication?

Mobile devices and laptops can easily be used as local biometric authenticators thanks to a very important standard called WebAuthn or FIDO2 web authentication standard created by the World Wide Web Organization. Thanks to that standard enterprises can use any smartphone or laptop an employee uses and turn it into an authenticating device. This can become a huge improvement of workflows and business processes and can provide same level of security to both employees working in the office as well as those who work remotely as FIDO2 is a great way to maintain remote work security.


What is behavioral biometrics?

When you think about biometrics you usually think about fingerprint scanners, eye scanners or face or voice recognition technology. While all these are traditional methods of behavioral authentication there is yet another way to tackle the biometrics. It’s called behavioral biometrics.

The difference between the traditional and behavioral biometrics is that the latter performs continuous authentication. It simply follows the users behaviour within the application and tracks suspicious patterns. It is meant to ensure that the users who went through the initial login process types, acts and basically behaves himself or herself according to his or her usual behaviors. Users who are not behaving like themselves can be restricted from accessing further data or can be logged off until their identity can be otherwise verified.

How biometrics can be used in multi-factor authentication?

Biometric authentication is often used as a major component of modern multi-factor authentication. The more security layers that stand between users and applications the more difficulty hackers face while trying to breach organizations' network.

While biometric authentication provide much stronger single factor authentication method than passwords relying on it only could put an enterprise in jeopardy, therefore it doesn’t usually replace password but is rather added as a second layer on top of them. Biometric authentication is therefore a great idea to consider but it should only serve as a part of a company's overall identity management platform.

Biometric authentication and enterprise security

Biometric authentication is yet another approach to user authentication that offers stronger than passwords alternatives for a person to access his or her data. Enterprises more and more often reach for biometrics adding it as a second factor (in two-factor authentication approach) with the first factor being a traditional password.

Why is biometric authentication added to the login process? Because passwords are a very unreliable way of keeping organization databases secure. Employees often go with weak and easy to guess passwords such as ‘12345’, the word ‘password’ or names of their kids, spouses or pets.

Biometric authentication instead of a word or a phrase uses physiological factors such as fingerprint, iris, voice or face to strengthen authentication and secure access. These factors can't be guessed digitally. Biometric authentication solutions are often seens as a first step into passwordless authentication as they are often used as one of the factors in multi-factor authentication.

What is the most common type of biometrics device in the enterprise?

In enterprise environment biometric authentication is often used in the form of hardware authenticators. Security teams often incorporate hard tokens like FIDO2 based security keys or simply local authenticators like smartphones and laptops that work with the FIDO2 standard. Employees can take advantage of their smartphones and laptops that thanks to WebAuthn can serve as local authenticators and allow them to use biometrics to login to their devices. They can also use FIDO2 security keys which are basically small security tokens equipped with fingerprint sensors.

Biometric authentication and remote work security

Biometric authentication solutions can greatly improve remote work security. FIDO2 standard allows organizations to take advantage of everyday hardware and use them as biometric authenticators. Each smartphone or laptop nowadays has a built-in camera or fingerprint scanner so it can be used as an authenticating device and verify users before they receive access. Biometric authentication solutions often integrate with privileged access management (PAM) tools and IAM platforms to ensure the most comprehensive authentication policies possible.

How to deploy biometric authentication on enterprise software?

Biometric authentication, or in fact any other authentication standard, can be easily deployed on any enterprise application with the use of a user access security broker. The deployment is scalable, which means that strong authentication can be deployed on any application in the same way, without any software development. Biometric authentication can also be used for microauthorization purposes, so as yet another layer of security to protect the user within the app. Microauthorizations is a way to make sure that the user that is using the application is still the same user that logged in initially.

Demo showing how to deploy any strong authentication method using the User Access Security Broker approach:

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