IBM 5 in 5: Biometric data will be the key to personal security

Editor's note: This IBM 5 in 5 prediction about biometrics is by IBM Fellow and Speech CTO David Nahamoo.

Everything we do online, or via a computer, requires authenticating who we are – user IDs and passwords are our safeguard. But the security isn’t foolproof. Our IDs and passwords can be stolen and our mobile devices can be lost or stolen.

Over the next five years, your unique biological identity and biometric data – facial definitions, iris scans, voice files, even your DNA – will become the key to safeguarding your personal identity and information and replace the current user ID and password system.

It’s not all about what you know

We know that security improves by combining different biometrics with different methodologies. So, we typically use three ways to authenticate each other:

•    What you have: a badge or ID card
•    What you are: how you look, speak, walk
•    What you know: a secure piece of information or password

Think about what we have to do to authenticate our access for something online: create user IDs and passwords; set up hint questions and site keys for dozens of accounts. Personally, I have a very difficult time remembering more than 50 account log-ins and passwords that I have.

Smart device, smart security

We have been moving from devices like desktops and laptops to smart devices such as mobile phones and tablets – all property that is easily lost, stolen or misplaced. These devices are not yet outfitted with operating systems and security elements that are as strong as immobile devices of the past. Biometric security can strengthen those weaknesses.

Biometric data will allow you to walk up to an ATM and access your bank account by simply speaking your name and looking into the camera. Yes, we’ve all seen the thriller sci-fi movies where a person is forced by the villain to scan their eye or finger to unlock a door. But that’s fiction. In reality, ATM cameras using facial and iris recognition may be able to detect stress, pupil dilation, and changes in heart rate and breathing patterns to establish a confidence level that the user is not in danger.

We can take advantage of the advanced technology being used in the smart devices, such as microphones, touch screens and high definition cameras to fully employ biometric security options. While there is already some adoption of facial and voice recognition, combining these and other biometric data points in the near future can eliminate the hassle of memorizing, storing and securing account IDs and passwords and at the same time give users a greater security confidence.
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