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Entries in Biometrics (13)


Moving Beyond Passwords With Fingerprint Technology

When the Samsung Galaxy S5 is released on April 11, users will be able to use their fingerprint to securely login in and shop at companies that use PayPal. All it takes is a simple finger swipe. 

PayPal’s app can also be used to pay for products in some physical stores. 

PayPal does not store personal information on the device. Instead, the FIDO Ready™ software on the device securely communicates between the fingerprint sensor on the device and PayPal’s service in the cloud. The only information the device shares with PayPal is a unique encrypted key that allows PayPal to verify the identity of the customer without having to store any biometric information on PayPal’s servers.

The iPhone 5 already lets users unlock their devices with their fingerprint and pay for purchases in iTunes.

These new biometric features moves us beyond passwords and towards the inevitable proliferation of fingerprint authentication technology.


DHS Considering Facial Recognition at Border Stations

The Department of Homeland Security is looking to dive into the world of biometrics.

DHS is requesting information from contractors on the use of facial and iris recognition to track the departure of foreign visitors. The technology could help to DHS agents to confirm that pedestrians and drivers leaving the U.S. are who they claim to be. There’s no word yet on whether a similar system might be used for air passengers.

DHS hopes that this type of technology could help them better keep track of travelers who overstay their visas, such as Amine El Khalifi, a Moroccan immigrant who was living in Virginia on an expired 1999 visa when he attempted to bomb the U.S. Capitol Building.

DHS wants to find a “fingerprint, iris, and facial matching" system that could identify more than 97 percent of foreign pedestrians. Most systems currently average 95 percent or better in ideal situations.

While it’s a bit exciting that DHS might invest in such (relatively) cutting-edge technology, we have to wonder how effective it will be in this case. What if people with expired visas never leave—or already have? DHS would never know it using this technique. Besides, what are the odds that foreigners who have overstayed their visas would exit via a border crossing, as opposed to taking a flight out of the country? And finally, how much of a backlog are these systems going to create at each border crossing? Many are already plagued with long lines and staff shortages.

Kudos to DHS for going the technology route to solve a long-term problem. But in this case, biometrics might not be the best bet.

What are your thoughts on this approach? Do you think DHS would actually make some progress using biometrics? Or would it be a waste of resources?


European Group Seeks to Outwit Biometric 'Spoofing' Attacks

TABULA RASA is the intriguingly-named effort by the European Commission to make biometric systems practically hack-proof.

Fingerprint and facial biometric systems are especially prone to direct attacks, also known as spoofs. A spoof works just like in the movies: the bad guys falsify a biometric trait (like, somebody’s fingerprint) and present it to the biometric system to gain access to the bank vault or robot factory. This is actually do-able by copying the person’s fingerprint and creating an artificial (or gummy) finger.

Surprisingly, TABULA RASA claims that the spoofing issue doesn’t just affect large companies with advanced security. In fact, it’s also hitting emerging small and medium sized enterprises that wish to sell biometric technologies in emerging fields.

Seeking justice, the TABULA RASA project hopes to address the need for a draft set of standards to examine the spoofing problem and propose countermeasures such as combining biometric information from multiple sources.

They’re also hoping to examine novel biometrics that may be inherently robust to direct attacks. These might include vascular (vein) biometrics, electro-physiological signals like heartbeat (very cool), or even unique gait. Not surprisingly, all these have the potential to be harder to replicate than an iris or fingerprint.


Facial Recognition Could Catch Criminal Avatars

As anyone who has used the interwebs knows, one of the appeals of the Internet is anonymity. But one researcher is trying to ruin it for everyone (well, maybe just criminals) by actually fusing a person’s real biometrics with his or her 3D avatar.

Sound far-fetched? Well, it kinda is. But it’s a project that came about because of a rise in virtual crime—and an increased likelihood that it will be investigated. In fact, Japanese police have arrested virtual muggers, and the FBI has investigated Second Life casinos’ dealings.

Computer scientist Roman Yampolskiy is leading the charge against virtual crimes. Already, multinational defense firm Raytheon has a patent pending on fusing a person's real biometrics with their 3D avatar. That would let you know for sure who you are speaking to online.

Yampolskiy and co. at the Cyber-Security Lab at the University of Louisville are taking the idea even further: They’re developing the field of artificial biometrics, known as "artimetrics." Much like human biometrics, artimetrics could be referenced to “authenticate and identify non-biological agents such as avatars, physical robots or even chatbots.”

When virtual worlds run on peer-to-peer networks, Yampolskiy explains, there’s no central authority to enable police to investigate virtual crime. That’s where artimetrics come in, New Scientist explains:

Yampolskiy and colleagues have developed facial recognition techniques specifically tailored to avatars, since current algorithms only work on humans. "Not all avatars are human looking, and even with those that are humanoid there is a huge diversity of colour," Yampolskiy says, so his software uses those colors to improve avatar recognition.

The team also investigated matching a human face to an avatar generated from that face; previous studies show that avatars often resemble their owners. Combining their color-based technique with existing facial recognition software produced the best results, suggesting it might be possible to track someone between the physical and virtual worlds.

Next up, Yampolskiy wants to create recognition algorithms for robots as well. Since autonomous robots might one day become ubiquitous, he says, they’ll eventually require identification of their own, distinct from humans.


Vein Recognition Scanners: The Next Step to a Wallet-free Future? 


Yesterday, we reported that a New York hospital is using vein-recognition technology to access patient data. Now, a Florida school district is also getting in on the action--and leading the trend toward a fully wallet-free future.

Fujitsu's PalmSecure provides a highly reliable biometric authentication system based on palm vein pattern recognition technology. The Pinellas County School District, near St. Petersburg, Fla., will use PalmSecure in its cafeterias to enable students to make purchases without cash, cards or phones.

How does it work? Vein-recognition tech uses a near-infrared light that shines up from the detector. The user waves a hand over the light, and it instantly maps the unique pattern of veins in his or her hand. This pattern is then stored, not as an image, but as a unique identifier.

Vascular pattern recognition technology has already been in use for years, especially in access control applications. However, its use as a method of payment is exciting. Biometric payment is exceedingly more secure than cash, credit cards and even cell phone wallets. (Plus, it's cool!)

For now, the cost of the system is prohibitive for most retail locations. But our bet is that shoppers will start seeing them in their favorite stores in only a few years.