The Phygital Identity: Embracing Biometrics for a Secure Future

By Eduardo Azanza, Co-Founder & CEO at Veridas

The physical and digital worlds are synergizing more than ever before. This convergence of technology and reality – the ‘phygital’ world – is becoming a transformative phenomenon. Gone are the days when identity verification was akin to scaling a mountain, with countless obstacles ranging from long queues at border controls to cumbersome handling of critical personal documents. The dawn of a new era beckons and promises to make the journey of identity verification remarkably effortless.

Biometric technology – the maestro of this new era – is revolutionizing our approach to identification. Using distinctive physiological traits like our face or voice, we’re shifting away from the traditional, often tedious verification methods; no more pins, passwords or misplaced IDs. Now, the key to seamless verification and secure access is as quick as a glance.

However, every new technology brings forward a wave of public concerns. As we explore this new era of phygital transformation, it’s important to navigate the nuances, understand the benefits and address the inherent challenges.

Advantages and concerns surrounding biometric security

Biometric technology is the nexus of the convergence of the physical and digital realms, providing a robust and intuitive solution for identity verification. One of its primary advantages is convenience. Just as a key fits uniquely and seamlessly into a lock, biometric features such as face or voice match an individual flawlessly, deeming other identification options obsolete. As identified by the leading researchers of NIST and Biometrics Institute, the chance of mistaken identity is minimal with biometrics, significantly enhancing security.

The influence of biometrics is not confined to the digital domain alone. Its impact is also deeply felt in the physical world. Consider the airports, often bustling with long queues for identity verification.

Biometric technology, including voice and facial recognition, is revolutionizing various industries by significantly accelerating verification processes and drastically reducing wait times. This transformative technology has particularly benefited institutions such as hospitals, businesses, banks and government agencies, providing them with a reliable and efficient means of identifying customers and individuals.

However, this powerful technology also raises some concerns and challenges that should be addressed by developers and vendors. The expanding use of CCTV to monitor individuals through facial recognition has given rise to valid apprehensions regarding surveillance and privacy, particularly with government involvement. Here, the balance between security and individual privacy rights becomes a crucial point of contention. The authentication and verification have to be done only when people have previously given their express, informed, free and voluntary consent to use the system.

The industry, in response, should place more reliance on vendors that prioritize user control over their identity data. Such vendors focus on transparency and long-term success rather than short-term capital gain and recognition. This means that the user’s biometric data remains in their control, adding another layer of security and privacy assurance. Thus, while biometrics presents a promising path forward, it’s imperative to address and manage these valid concerns, ensuring that the ‘phygital’ sea remains navigable for all.

How can businesses harness the power of biometrics for secure authentication?

As the need for safe and reliable identity verification grows, industries are increasingly turning to advanced biometric technology. Recently, voice biometrics has seen a surge in adoption due to its applicability in a range of digital settings, including remote working, e-commerce and online banking.

For companies keen on implementing voice biometrics as part of their identity authentication process, ensuring the reliability and security of third-party verification technology is crucial. A reliable third-party verification technology adheres to regulatory standards, assuring businesses that their biometric authentication processes are dependable and equipped with the latest fraud prevention methods.

It’s also critically important that businesses looking to incorporate voice biometrics must invest in solutions that integrate anti-spoofing technology.

Such technologies can examine the audio characteristics to detect presentation attacks where adversaries play pre-recorded audio through a speaker to mimic someone else. These threats can bypass voice biometrics and enable unauthorized individuals to access sensitive information if not promptly identified.

Multi-factor authentication serves as another significant pillar for strengthening the identification process. This approach combines voice biometrics with other forms of authentication, such as document verification or facial recognition. Consequently, even if one aspect is compromised, the attacker cannot succeed unless they acquire the other elements simultaneously.

To secure an identification scheme completely, there must be multiple layers of biometrics. By combining voice and facial recognition, organizations can achieve a higher level of security, making it more challenging for adversaries to impersonate an individual. Biometrics are unique to each person and are non-replicable, distinguishing them from traditional passwords or physical IDs. This uniqueness makes it exceedingly difficult for unauthorized access or identity fraud, further solidifying the case for biometric technology in the quest for secure and seamless identity verification.

Regulatory Compliance and the Future of Biometric Technology

As the adoption of biometrics escalates, the global landscape of regulatory compliance is becoming increasingly demanding. Companies that collect, store and handle biometric data are obligated to follow stringent regulations. In Europe, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) categorizes biometric data as ‘sensitive’, necessitating robust protection measures that respect fundamental rights and freedoms. To process such data, organizations need a legal basis and must perform a privacy impact assessment.

The US, however, handles regulations on a state-by-state basis. California businesses, for example, are bound by the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). This act stipulates specific rules for collecting and using customer data, with special provisions for biometric data.

Meanwhile, global standards like ISO/IEC 30107 offer a framework for detecting presentation attacks on biometric systems, which can occur in-person, online or through existing databases. Detection of potential biometric spoofs is critical to maintaining the integrity of these systems.

Agencies such as the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) serve as industry watchtowers, periodically assessing biometric devices from various vendors to provide unbiased performance ratings. Submission of technologies to institutions like NIST for evaluation is not merely recommended; it’s a must.

Overall, it’s evident that biometric technology, with its unique blend of convenience and security, will continue to evolve and gain acceptance. As this trend persists, organizations must stay abreast of protective measures against deepfakes, data security protocols and ever-changing regulatory requirements. In this interconnected ‘phygital’ landscape, ensuring a secure and trusted environment is not just a goal – it is imperative.

Eduardo Azanza is the CEO and co-founder of Veridas, a biometric technology company founded in 2012. With over 15 years of experience in the field, Azanza has been a driving force behind Veridas’ success in developing cutting-edge biometric solutions for identity verification, digital onboarding, and access control. Under his leadership, Veridas has become a leading provider of biometric technology, with its solutions trusted by financial institutions, governments, and businesses around the world. 

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