Fighting Crime with Biometrics

Fighting Crime with Biometrics

Biometrics is the measurement and analysis of unique behavioral and physical characteristics as a means of personal identity. Some of the biometric modalities currently being used for personal identification include DNA, facial recognition, fingerprints, voice recognition, iris scan, palm prints and vein pattern. Combining these powerful technologies is allowing consumers to better protect themselves in our ever-connected world. To learn more about fighting and preventing crime with biometrics, checkout the infographic below created by the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Online Master of Science in Computer Science program.


Fighting Crime with Biometrics

How does a Biometric System Work?

Biometric identification involves three basic steps. The first step is capturing, or recording, a specific trait or image of the user. Depending on the biometric system being used, a scanner or sensor may be used to capture the unique trait of the user. The second step is storage of data in a secure database. A computer is used to process the raw data and store the information in a well-organized database. The third step is verification, where new biometric data is compared to existing data. Computer software is normally used to analyze behavioral or physical characteristics and convert them to computer codes or graphs as well as to perform comparisons.

Cybercrime in the United States

The U.S. is one of the most advanced countries in the world as far as technology and computer use is concerned and is part of the reason why cyber criminals prefer to target U.S. companies and citizens. The following are some of the most prevalent cybercrimes Americans are facing today that biometrics can help prevent or minimize:

Hacking and Cybercrimes

Hackers have in the past hacked into computer servers and stole credentials. For instance, Russian hackers stole over 1.2 billion unique credentials in the year 2014. According to the government, over three thousand U.S. corporations fall victim to cybercrime every year. This includes 783 major data breaches in 2014, which was an increase of around 27.5% from the previous year.

Identity Theft

In 2014 alone, 12.7 million Americans were victims of electronic fraud or identity theft. On average, 14% of Americans experience identity theft at one point or another in their lives and this number is expected to increase as we move into a world of extreme connectivity.

Password Vulnerability

It is estimated that 20% of Americans experience high-profile data breaches. This can be attributed largely to the fact that over 30% of American Internet users visit more than 10 websites everyday and over 59% of them use the same password on multiple sites.

According to computer security experts, six out of seven of the most popular mobile apps are susceptible to hacking 82% to 92% of the time. The easiest apps to hack include Chase Bank, Gmail and H&R Block. On the other hand, the hardest app to hack is Amazon.

The Cost of Cybercrime

Cybercrime is estimated to cost Americans around $24.7 billion annually through identity theft, with individual Americans losing an average of $1,769 of their personal finances annually as a result of identity theft. Globally, $375 to $575 billion is lost through cybercrime annually.

The Ideal Password

Fighting identity theft and data breaches starts with utilization of a secure password, which must contain at least 16 characters. The first three characters in the password should be in capital letters, followed by two special characters and a three-digit number. The next set of characters should be a combination of special characters, spaces, numbers and lower case letters. There should be no repetition, ID numbers, dictionary words, usernames or predefined letter sequences.

The Pros and Cons of Using Biometrics vs. Passwords

Biometric systems are less vulnerable to hacking and fraud while 92% of all passwords can be hacked. Secondly, biometrics can prove identity with a much greater degree of accuracy than passwords. For this reason, 87% of Americans are willing to share their biometric information to make travel easier and more secure. Additionally, 72% of Americans are willing to use biometrics for financial transactions. Thirdly, passwords can be forgotten or compromised when shared amongst several people while biometrics is not transferable or forgettable. This translates to enhanced security as well as more convenience.

Biometric systems also have several shortcomings. For one, most people consider the technology privacy-invasive as well as physically invasive. As a result, only 53% of Americans would be comfortable replacing their passwords with fingerprint identification. On the other hand, only 45% of the population would be willing to replace passwords with retinal scans. Secondly, the technology can be challenging to implement on a large scale because 32% of Americans do not trust third parties with their biometric information. Lastly, biometric technology is not foolproof, as seen in the recent case of Apple’s Touch ID, which was hacked less than one week after it was launched.

Solving Crimes with Biometrics

The FBI has developed a huge database of fingerprints and photos. The bureau uses this information in its Next Generation Identification (NGI) system. Palm prints and iris scans will be included in the future. There is also an interstate facial recognition system providing over 18,000 law enforcement officers with access to the database. Interpol, through its Turn Back Crime Campaign, has linked its database with the databases of local authorities. Most large airports around the world nowadays perform iris scanning to enhance security, which has resulted in enhanced security and a reduced crime rate.

Projects of the Future

In addition to the biometric modalities highlighted above, researchers are now experimenting with typing speed, heartbeats, ear shape, scent, footprints and walking style for biometric identification purposes. The future is bright in the field of biometrics and as the threat of cybercrime and identity theft continues to rise, the use of biometrics will help ensure consumers have the ability to fight back in the future.