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An Overview of Biometrics

Author: Bryan Zhang

Editors: Junyu Zheng, Sumire Sumi

Artist: Alvina Zhang

Biometrics are biological characteristics of an individual that are used to verify their identity. For example, I’m sure you’ve all heard of fingerprint identification, even if you don’t use it. Due to the unique characteristics of each individual’s biology, the identity of anyone can be easily identified, and in a world of increasingly complex technology and online information, it is an important measure that we must utilize properly. 

As previously explained, biometrics is what, biologically, makes you, you. For quite a while, dating back to the 19th century when fingerprints were used to identify individuals, biometrics have been a relevant form of identification. Some other examples of what may be considered a biometric include face recognition, iris recognition, and even your DNA. Each of these traits is unique to each individual, making biometrics so prominent. And that’s not the only type of biometrics, either. Past the indicators at the biological or molecular level, behavioral biometrics allows the recognition of a person based on voice, among other noizes. It’s an additional layer of protection against anyone trying to gain access to your account and certainly quite a secure one. 

Of course, no single system is without flaws. Because humans change over time and in the moment as well, biometric measures don’t have a way to guarantee that the face in front of the screen is you without taking into account any minuscule changes that may exist. Doppelgängers might be the first example one could think of when considering this phenomenon, and they’d be right. Add fingerprints, too. They might be unique to each individual, but if my phone only recognized my fingerprint after I pressed it for the fifth time, it’s apparent that there are errors in this technology. Even though that might not have been the best analogy, consider that securing a fingerprint isn’t outside the realm of possibility if one puts in the effort. Of course, most hackers and other people who may want to access your personal information probably aren’t going to go so far as to check for matching fingerprints, though accidents have happened before, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. 

Another thing to consider is AI, a new tool for the public to mess with, and one not without its fair share of indubitable characters using it. No, I’m not just talking about people who use chat GPT to write homework. AI is a valuable tool in biometrics, as it can be used to identify someone more efficiently than prior methods, but for that same reason, it serves as a double-sided sword for cybersecurity. Keep in mind, however, that some AIs can identify attempts at security breaches using AI, and in general, as technology improves, so will our methods of utilizing this technology to protect our personal information. 

Biometrics has its uses and its flaws, but at the end of the day, it’s just another measure we take for safety and security. Just like how a body can’t function with only one or two organs, it’s backed up by many other forms of protection, and with a changing world like this, where both the security and the hacking tools are growing, it's important to have all the help that we can get. 

 

Citations:

"Biometrics: definition, use cases, latest news." Thales, 20 May 2023,

Gillis, Alexander S., and Peter Loshin. Biometrics. TechTarget, July 2021,

Law, Marcus. "AI and biometrics key to building trust in a digital world." Cyber, 19 May

2023, cybermagazine.com/articles/ai-and-biometrics-key-to-building-trust-in-a-digital-

world. Accessed 28 Jan. 2024.

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