Biometric Security Breakthroughs: Advancements and Pitfalls in Modern Authentication

Posted on by Isla Sibanda

Biometrics are often touted as the future of personal verification, yet they bring a unique blend of both innovation and vulnerability. While the ethical issues surrounding the widespread adoption of biometric security features are widely covered (and rightly so), there is a dimension of practical vulnerabilities that also deserve a closer look.

With high-stakes industries such as banking, law enforcement, and healthcare rapidly adopting this new method of security, it’s crucial not only to have a solid understanding of the breakthroughs occurring with this emerging technology but also the potential risks it can bring about. Below, we’ll outline both pieces of the puzzle—providing a granular look at the trade-offs between convenience and security.

How Are Biometrics Used In Modern Authentication?

Robust authentication is indispensable in the modern, digital world, with traditional measures such as passwords no longer being sufficient on their own to protect sensitive data and prevent unauthorized access to networks, systems, and buildings. This has led to an exploration of new technologies that can provide effective security, with biometrics at the forefront of evolving authentication methods. Biometric security includes fingerprint recognition, facial recognition, iris scanning, voice recognition, and behavioral biometrics.

Physical Biometrics check for unique physical characteristics include facial recognition, fingerprint scans, and iris recognition, and have become the most prevalent form of biometric authentication. 

Behavioral Biometrics focus on analyzing the behavioral patterns of users, such as their typing rhythms and how they typically move the mouse, further helping to authenticate their identity as an extra layer of security. This modality isn’t typically used as a primary form of authentication. Instead, it forms part of a continuous monitoring strategy, effectively identifying any anomalies in real time to detect unauthorized users and suspicious activity. 

Voice Recognition is similar to physical biometrics, but voice recognition allows users to authenticate their identity by speaking, whether in the form of a passphrase or a certain set of words. Each person’s voice has unique characteristics such as pitch and tone, and the specific pronunciations of words. This makes it possible for biometric technology to make a clear distinction between one user’s voice and another. This is referred to as a voiceprint, a vocal password that can be used for authentication purposes. 

Industries That Are Embracing Biometric Authentication

Numerous industries across the world are moving towards biometric authentication in order to replace existing methods such as passwords, multi-factor authentication, and physical smart keys. However, some industries are ahead of the rest, particularly those in which the highest level of security is necessary to protect sensitive data.

Law enforcement was one of the first industries to use biometrics, identifying humans using fingerprints to assist with criminal investigations. However, as cybercriminals have frequently targeted law enforcement agencies to obtain sensitive data and conduct fraudulent activity (such as fake subpoenas), biometric technology is now commonly used for security purposes. This ranges from building and room access where physical records are kept to implementing authentication on Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

Almost all US airlines have deployed biometric technology in some form, with facial recognition the most common use case in terms of airport security protocols. Additionally, the healthcare industry has many use cases for biometric technology, in addition to authentication. As extremely sensitive patient data is stored in large quantities, its protection is paramount, especially when this information is being transferred between hospitals or clinics. With biometrics, security is assured whenever anyone attempts to access patient data or information relating to prescriptions. Biometric technology has also been harnessed to increase security, with fingerprint scanning, facial recognition, and voice recognition all playing a key role in providing greater authentication in banks. 

Biometric Authentication: The Risks

The additional layer of security and convenience for users is a clear benefit of biometric authentication; however, like any form of technology, biometrics also presents a level of risk. Malicious actors could attempt to breach a database that contains the biometric data of all users within an organization, allowing them to manipulate data to their advantage or re-use this data to commit fraud. 

Another worry is the rapid evolution of artificial intelligence, with deep fake technology able to effectively imitate a person’s voice, potentially to the level where it could bypass voice recognition security. And while complex software-aided processes like SAP staff augmentation make employee authentication easier, organizations are notably struggling due to the mere fact that data is being collected and stored, and thus, in a way, almost served to malicious hackers on a silver platter. 

Privacy Issues, discrepancies, and system failures are additional risks to consider. Most biometric systems only use partial biometric data to ensure a faster authentication process, even though complete data is stored. This partial use can open the door for discrepancies, and although likely to be minor, it increases the risk of identity theft or fraud because a threat actor may be able to ascertain which parts of the data an authentication method uses, allowing them to devise measures to bypass security. System failures, such as a fingerprint scanning application on a smartphone experiencing downtime or a faulty camera, preventing facial recognition authentication, can cause great inconvenience in terms of biometric authentication, especially if it is not combined with other, alternative forms of authentication. 


Biometrics are the future of authentication, from room access in government buildings to fingerprint scanning on smartphones to access critical applications. Although there are significant benefits, including stronger security and a better user experience, there are also several risks that need to be considered. The storage of biometric data presents its own security and privacy risks, with the use of just partial data making it easier for criminals to devise ways of breaching a system. Furthermore, system failures, such as a broken scanner, for example, can cause significant inconvenience if this is the only mode of authentication.

Isla Sibanda

Freelance Writer,


authentication biometrics behavioral analytics mobile security data security security awareness email security Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning

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