March 2020 will forever be remembered as the month where the world changed. In a matter of days, the COVID-19 virus closed borders, shuttered businesses and forced people to remain in their homes. The virus also brought with it another threat—cyber security threats. Between January and March 2020, attacks against internet-exposed RDP ports increased from 3 million to 4.5 million. Businesses around the world have also had to contend with a surge in attempted security breaches since March. These breaches are made possible as a result of the increase in remote working, which most businesses were not prepared for, and the global focus on the pandemic, which hackers have been exploiting in attempted hacks and phishing scams. The way the world functioned before the pandemic has forever been altered. As we begin to emerge from the worst part of the pandemic, businesses and people will have a renewed focus on security and safety moving forward.
For homes, personal devices and especially work-related accounts, biometrics have quickly become the norm for increased security. Due to the fact that biometrics rely on who the user is by using their unique fingerprints or facial structure, they are far more secure than a simple password authentication. The process to hack an account that uses biometrics is time-consuming and complicated, as the hacker needs to do more work than just guessing characters or an important phrase. They need to have exact replicas of a person’s fingerprint or face. This used to be easy: hackers could use high-quality photographs or videos to trick facial recognition systems. For fingerprints, they could create molds or copies of the print to spoof the systems. Luckily, most biometric security has become increasingly sophisticated. Liveness detection and 3D facial recognition have been implemented for facial recognition technology to ensure that the data is coming from a real person in that exact moment. This prevents hackers from using replicas, photos, videos or injected data from a stolen database. What’s more, it can do more than just protecting at the instant at login, but continuously securing all ongoing activities. It may not be completely foolproof, but it is significantly harder, and more time consuming, to breach.
Another benefit to biometric security is it’s ease of use. Although businesses may appreciate how secure biometric technology is, 70 percent of Americans also choose biometrics because they are easier to use. To keep passwords secure, they must be unique and increasingly complicated. They also must be reset at regular intervals. For the average user, this could mean remembering unique passwords for many different accounts, each with their own character requirements. Using biometric security cuts down on the amount of passwords each user must remember, while maintaining an even higher level of security. It also reduces the time spent logging into accounts, as biometric authorization can take seconds to activate.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has forced many people and businesses to reconsider biometric technology. With the COVID-19 virus spreading easily through touchpoints, fingerprint scanners can quickly become a source for infections, especially in public spaces. Offices and ATMs contain many points of contact, and maintaining cleanliness on surfaces is nearly impossible. Unfortunately, these high traffic areas are also frequently the ones that would benefit the most from increased security. Revenue for the biometric device market is expected to drop by $2 billion this year, as a result of public fears from the virus and perceived risks from public surfaces. At the same time, facial recognition revenue and investment is expected to increase, especially for use in identification and surveillance systems.
Fingerprint ID exclusively relies on touchpoints, where a scanner can analyze a user’s finger that has been entered as the verification form. For utmost accuracy, a person needs to touch the scanner, which may have also been touched by thousands of other people. But if the concern is touchpoints, everyday acts like opening doors or getting cash also pose issues. Many people will touch door handles of public buildings, or ATM buttons and screens, throughout the day. Ruling out biometrics is not the answer. Instead, facial recognition can be implemented in almost all scenarios that once used pins, badges, FOBs or fingerprints. Users can stand in front of a facial scanner instead of touching potentially contaminated surfaces, and the scanner can detect who they are and what they are authorized to do. These systems can be used to unlock accounts, open secure areas and help users move about their day safely.
Other fears that have come out of the pandemic can also be managed using facial recognition. Due to the potential spread of COVID-19 through breathing or coughing, people have been told to stay a safe distance away from others and to wear masks. With facial recognition, users will not have to worry about this, as no one will be forced to touch or come in contact with the facial scanner. Increasingly sophisticated technology also takes care of people who will want to wear masks. Modern facial recognition software uses 3D scans and depth perception to recognize the user, meaning that masks or lighting cannot obscure the face enough to incorrectly deny, or allow, access. Depth perception increases security, but it also allows people to move about safely, as people become reliant on masks to reduce the spread of the disease.
The future of security
Before the pandemic, facial recognition software was constantly criticized as too invasive. Yet, as priorities shift in wake of COVID-19, biometric technology is being used around the world to help governments keep citizens safe and track the spread of the virus. The next step for security and hygiene will be implementing facial authentication measures. As the software and solutions already exist to implement this technology, it can be quickly put in place, relieving people and businesses of the fears that may arise as the economy reopens. In order to increase security and safety in the wake of this virus, businesses, banks and people will need to start using technology for safety, security and peace of mind.