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Biometric methods

Today, biometric data is used for a variety of purposes. In fact, most people use biometrics in their everyday lives. For example, if you use a smartphone, then you’ll already be using your biometric data for verification purposes multiple times a day.

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November 28, 2022
Blog Post

Biometric authentication methods are used to verify the identity of an individual based on their unique characteristics.  

Biometrics are popular authentication and verification methods because they’re incredibly accurate and can verify the identity of an individual in a matter of seconds.

What are the types of biometric methods?

Biometrics is a way of measuring a person’s physical characteristics or quantifying their behavior. Each piece of biometric data a person possesses (such as a fingerprint or an iris scan) is unique. For this reason, when biometric identifiers are used, an individual’s identity can be verified accurately.

Although biometrics is a modern way of identifying and verifying a customer’s identity, today the practice is widespread. It is also one of the most popular and secure types of authentication methods. This is because biometrics provides a great deal of security for businesses while also increasing convenience for customers who no longer need to remember complex passwords.

Today, biometric data is used for a variety of purposes. In fact, most people use biometrics in their everyday lives. For example, if you use a smartphone, then you’ll already be using your biometric data for verification purposes multiple times a day. This is because, when your iPhone scans your face before it unlocks, or when you use your fingerprint for Apple Pay, you’re using two different forms of biometric identification.

But, the use of biometric data extends well beyond smartphone use. For example, biometric identifiers are also used in e-passports. Similarly, police forces use biometric data to gain a deeper understanding of a crime scene and a suspect.

So, now we understand how biometric methods can be used practically. But, what are the most popular types of biometrics used today? Let’s take a look at six examples.

Physiological biometrics

Most biometric authentication methods fall into one of two categories: physiological biometrics and behavioral biometrics.

Physiological biometrics are related to the shape of the body and a person’s physical characteristics. Examples of physiological biometrics include:

  • Fingerprints - the shape and depth of the ridges on your finger
  • Hand geometry - how far your fingers are apart from one another and finger length
  • Facial measurements - including ear geometry, nose, head size and shape, and eye distance
  • Iris and retinas - color and eye shape
  • Veins - vein patterns in eyes or hands

Behavioral biometrics

By contrast, behavioral biometrics refers to patterns that can be identified in human behavior.

For example, a person’s voice is seen as a behavioral biometric indicator. This is because each person speaks differently and speech patterns, accents, and tones are unique. For this reason, the way certain phrases are spoken can be measured and a profile can be created for each individual.

Behavioral biometric indicators are increasingly being used in digital applications. In these scenarios, they’re used to determine who a person is based on a set of patterns created by how the individual behaves.

To help with this, a number of businesses employ a digital platform that analyzes how their customers behave when they use their website. These pieces of software look at factors like how an individual scrolls on a webpage, how they use a mouse, how they scroll and swipe on a mobile site, or whether they click or use hard presses. This way, a full profile of the individual can be built and it becomes possible to determine whether a different individual is using someone else’s account.

Other examples of behavioral biometrics include:

  • Typing rhythm and keystroke dynamics
  • Walking gait
  • Gestures
  • Written text recognition like a signature or font
  • Geo-location and IP Addresses
  • Purchasing habits
  • Browser history and cookies

Now that we've covered these two overarching forms of biometric methods in detail, let’s now take a look at some of the most popular forms of biometric identification.

Fingerprint recognition

Fingerprint recognition technology is the most widely-used form of biometrics in the world. A fingerprint recognition system analyzes the location of minutiae (the endings and bifurcations of the friction ridges on the pad of your finger). These systems also track additional pieces of data, such as the number of ridges between minutiae points.

A number of different methods exist for capturing and storing fingerprints. For example, optical capture uses visible light, while capacitive sensors use electrical current conducted through the finger.

Fingerprint recognition technology has a number of uses. For example, police forces will record fingerprints in order to ascertain whether a suspect was at a crime scene. However, the most common use of fingerprint technology today is the smartphone. Many banking apps ask the user to provide a fingerprint to verify their identity before they can access their money or make transactions.

Facial recognition

Facial recognition systems can be used to identify people in photos, videos, or in real-time. Facial recognition systems work by measuring the geometry of a face. The key factors the software analyzes include:

  • The distance between your eyes
  • The depth of your eye sockets
  • The distance from forehead to chin
  • The shape of your cheekbones
  • The contour of the lips, ears, and chin

Although this form of biometric identification was traditionally used in law enforcement settings, it’s now used for a number of different applications. For example, Apple’s Face ID allows a user to use a scan of their face to open their smartphone. Similarly, machines at the airport and e-passports mean that a passenger doesn’t need to wait for a human to analyze their passport.

Iris recognition

Iris recognition systems take images of the eye using infrared light. These biometric identification systems work because iris melanin is transparent under infrared illumination. This means that the iris detail can be revealed regardless of the subject’s eye color.

Once the iris has been scanned, recognition algorithms locate the boundaries of the iris and then process the iris portion of the image to provide a distinct and concise representation of an individual’s iris pattern.

Iris recognition technology is not used as widely as fingerprint recognition or facial recognition. However, the technology is still used for physical access control purposes. This is particularly the case at border control, where the technology is used to identify travelers as they enter and exit countries by land, sea, and air.

Vein pattern recognition

Three different forms of vein pattern recognition are available: palm vein pattern recognition, finger vein pattern recognition (both of which work using near-infrared light), and retina vein pattern recognition.

The subcutaneous blood vessels of the human body form a distinctive pattern for each person. For this reason, these distinctive patterns can be used for identification purposes.

As part of this process, vein patterns are captured by illuminating a body region with infrared light. The reflected light is then photographed. In some systems, photographs are also taken of the infrared light transmitted through the body tissue being imaged.

Vein pattern recognition is a relatively new form of biometric authentication that is still largely under development. However, it’s hoped that this technology can be used for a wide array of applications, including credit card authentication, employee attendance and time tracking, network authentication, end-point security, automobile security, and at ATMs.

Benefits of biometric authentication

So, now we know what biometric identifiers are and how they’re used in practice. But, what exactly makes these biometric methods so popular and widely used?

Improved security

Not only are biometric methods highly accurate, but they also provide increased levels of assurance that the person attempting to access the service is exactly who they’re claiming to be. This is because, instead of providing a password that could be intercepted or compromised, the user instead provides a tangible, real-world trait that only they possess.

This means that biometric methods act as roadblocks for fraudsters who can’t use hacked, stolen, or intercepted data in order to access an account.

Quicker authentication

Using a fingerprint scanner or a facial scanner is also far quicker than using usernames and passwords. After all, an iPhone Face ID scan can be completed in under a second.

Correctly entering a username and password combination takes at least five times as long as this. If the user adds their credentials incorrectly or forgets a vital piece of information, then the process can instead take minutes.

Convenient customer experiences

Users love biometric verification methods because not only do these processes provide an additional sense of security, but they’re also easy to complete. Placing a finger on a scanner or allowing a phone to scan your face is far simpler than remembering and then typing out a complex password.

As an added bonus, this also means that customers never have to go through complex and time-consuming password reset processes. Plus, customers will never be locked out of their accounts.


Biometric identifiers such as face patterns or fingerprints are near-impossible for fraudsters to replicate. In fact, the odds of one person’s fingerprints matching another’s are greater than the chances of winning the lottery. This is because the likelihood of two fingerprints matching is a one in 64 billion chance.

Complete control over access

In some settings, biometric identifiers are perfect for access control. By using physical authentication, businesses can ensure that only certain members of staff (such as HR officers or senior managers) can gain access to sensitive data.

Using biometrics, you can ensure that only essential members of staff have the authorization level required to access certain systems or places within the building. Using biometric authentication for this purpose also eliminates the prospect that an accredited individual’s password is stolen or shared.

Disadvantages of biometric authentication

As you can see, biometric methods offer a number of benefits for businesses and users alike. However, in spite of this, there are also some disadvantages to using biometric authentication, such as:

Data breaches

Websites and databases are constantly under attack from fraudsters who are attempting to steal customer data. As biometric data is irreplaceable, businesses that request it from their customers must exercise increased security and caution when handling and storing this data. This can be an expensive and technically difficult process, but it’s one that organizations must follow. After all, a compromised password can be changed, but the same cannot be said for a person’s physiological or behavioral biometrics.

User privacy

The use of biometric identification and verification methods is becoming increasingly common. As a result, some experts believe that companies must take the privacy of users into account before they employ such a system.

This is because when biometric information is converted into data, a user could inadvertently create a permanent digital record that can be tracked by nefarious actors. As surveillance increases and technology continues to improve, biometric data could be used to track someone, both with and without their knowledge. This creates questions around privacy and consent.

How to prevent biometric hacking

Although data breaches are a concern for businesses that employ biometric methods, steps can be taken to minimize this threat.

Firstly, it’s worth stressing that biometric methods are much more secure than weak, shared, and reused passwords. This is because fingerprints and faces are unique. As a result, they are a simple and safe way of securing and accessing data.

However, this doesn’t mean that biometrics should be viewed as an airtight option. After all, if biometric data is stolen in a leak, then the data can be compromised.

On top of this, you should also remember that fraudsters are continually developing sophisticated hacking methods with the intent of fooling scanners and biometric identifiers.

To protect your customers from biometric hacking, you should:

  • Store all biometric data in secure and encrypted servers and cloud environments
  • Treat biometric data the same way you would any other personally identifiable information (PII) that your business controls
  • Use two-factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA)
  • Encourage your customers to use unique, high strength passwords for each account they have

See how Veriff’s biometric authentication solutions can help you - book a demo

Using our biometric authentication solution, you can secure accounts quickly and easily. For your customers, the process is as fast and easy as taking a selfie.

Our solution uses the power of facial biometrics to enable the simplest and most secure authentication experience. Using a selfie taken by the customer, our solution can authenticate an identity in only one second. Plus, the tool is 100% automated and 99.99% accurate. A seamless customer experience is enabled because 99% of customers are matched on their first try.

The solution is perfect for confirming that a returning user is exactly who they’re claiming to be. After asking the returning customer for a selfie, it then performs checks for liveness and realness and compares the selfie to a previously verified face and identity. As a result, it identifies and mitigates fraudulent activities such as account takeover and identity theft.

To discover how our biometric authentication solution can help your business, talk to our experts today. We’d love to provide you with a personalized demo.