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Description:


Biometrics is the field of technology which is geared toward the identification of users based on their biological traits, as opposed to the use of an ID card or password for security purposes. Common modern biometric identification methods include iris scanning, fingerprint scanning, and even facial recognition. This type of security/identification is still emerging into mainstream use. While it does bring a lot to the computer security table, there are still some concerns, such as the cost of implementation, false positives, and health risks (in systems such as iris scanners).

How does it Work?


Biometrics is built on the concept of comparing identity samples, such as fingerprints, in order to confirm identities. There are two basic methods used: verification and identification.
Verification is a one-to-one comparison in which a sample is captured and compared to a previously stored sample of the individual whose identity is being claimed. Basically, in verification, the system asks, “Is this person who he or she claims to be?”
Identification is a one-to-many comparison in which a sample is captured and compared to a database of identities, and attempts to match the given sample to one of the many identity samples stored. Essentially, during identification, the system asks, “Who is this person?”
Sensitivity: Increased sensitivity, increases errors or false reads. False accept rates are when unauthorized users are granted access due to error. False reject rates are when authorized users are not granted access due to error Biometrics today have a 0.0001% to 0.1% false reject rate rates and a 0.00066% to 1.0% false reject rate. Sensitivity: Increased sensitivity increases errors or false reads. False accept rates are when unauthorized users are granted access due to error. False reject rates are when authorized users are not granted access due to error Biometrics today have a 0.0001% to 0.1% false reject rate rates and a 0.00066% to 1.0% false reject rate.
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History:

Though biometrics have been used throughout the history of the world, it never became a distinct field until an anthropologist named Alphonse Bertillion sought to fix the problem of identifying convicted criminals. The study of biometrics got its official start in the area of law enforcement. "Biometrics" originates from the Greek words bio, meaning "life", and metric, meaning "to measure". History shows that biometrics have been around for centruies but was an extrememly informal practice. Early documents say that biometrics were used to record finger, hand, and footprints of children. Richard Edward Henry developed the fingerprinting process and used it in the field of criminology.

Applications:

Security
- government and civil; access to priviliged information, resources and facilities
- civil; identification of individuals using mass transit, criminal identification
- internet/network access; a domain, workstation, or network access
- internet identification; consumer/business transactions, bank transactions, confidetial personal information systems
In addition to confirming an individuals' identity through examining their distinguishable physiological characteristics, biometrics also employs a method of identification through examanination of ones behavioral characteristics. Instead of the examination of physical traits such as fingerprints or iris, behavioral identification verifies ones identity through characteristics such as their voice or signature. Both of these methods provide a good barrier of security, but must be examined closely to match the goals and needs of the organization.

Concerns:

As with every developing technology comes emerging concerns. The concerns with biometrics lie within the realm of privacy. Due to the permanent nature of a biometric, once it is compromised it permanently threatens the victim. Fingerprints and retinas do not change, so once they are compromised they are forever compromised. Not only that but biometrics are easily compromised. The cast of the Discovery channel show, Mythbusters, were able to crack biometric lock that has never been cracked before with all of the techniques they tried.

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Links:

Biometric Consortium
Biometrics Research
findBiometrics
http://www.indiana.edu/~hotmedia/archive/i202/php/_zmcmahon/biometrics-history.htm
http://www.emory.edu/BUSINESS/et/552fall2002/biometrics/history.htm

Biometrics concerns:
http://www.eff.org/Privacy/Surveillance/biometrics/