Biometric security makes use of our unique physical characteristics and features to identify us when using a computer system.
The retina is an area at the back of our eye. Our retinas are unique because of how complex a structure they are. Retina scans match the retina pattern with a user. If that user has permission to access a system or files, the retina scanning software will run some code to let them gain access, if not access will be denied. Retina scanning uses infrared light to read a pattern and is used mainly by large government organisations, particularly those concerned with intelligence and national security.
Retina scanning is not the same as iris scanning but is similar. The iris is the coloured part of the eye and also contains unique patterns for each person. Software will allow or deny access using iris scanning in the same way it would for retina scanning. Iris scanning uses a camera and compares the picture taken with a database of saved iris images for users. Iris scans are easier to forge with high resolution images of an iris and so are able to fool some detectors.
Fingerprints are also unique to each person and some mobile devices now include the option to activate fingerprint recognition. Fingerprints fall into one of three categories, the whorl, the arch or the loop. Even though there are three general categories, no two prints are the same. A fingerprint scanned on a device is compared to fingerprints saved in a database. If a match is found, access is granted, if not it is denied.
Palms prints provide unique identification of users in a similar way to fingerprints but over the larger physical area of a palm rather than a single fingerprint. Like retina scanning, palm print recognition is most commonly found in government organisations concerned with national security and is less commercially used than other forms of biometric security.
Facial recognition systems lack the same level of certainty as some of the other biometric examples. Images of a person’s face are taken from different angles with measurements used to identify the shape of the face and complex algorithms used to store any distinguishable features such as marks on the skin. The main use of facial recognition systems is in relation to law enforcement as the police or other agencies can capture images without people necessarily knowing that they are being photographed. These images can be compared to stored facial profiles to help identify individuals. These systems are not used by many users of ICT systems but could become more popular in the future.
Firewalls are used to check packets of data as they are received by a computer system from a network or the internet. If the packet is not considered to be acceptable it is not allowed to pass the firewall. This prevents against unauthorised access to a computer system by those intent on stealing data or taking control of the system.