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FBI's Facial Recognition Program: Better Security Through Biometrics

The FBI's facial recognition technology is a boon for law enforcement--and perhaps soon for enterprise and consumer security as well.
Todd Morris--CEO of Brickhouse Security, a security and surveillance provider whose customers include the FBI--said in a phone interview that the speed of biometric adoption and advancement has basically followed Moore's Law, with tools growing twice as powerful and half as expensive every 18 months. He noted that the newest facial-recognition systems can identify people obscured by sunglasses, hats, and windshields--challenges that would have been largely unmanageable two years ago.

"What government does trickles down to the enterprise, and then to consumers," he said, predicting that the next two years would bring cell phones with fingerprint, iris, and facial-recognition security features. The BYOD implications of hard-to-fake, multi-factor authentication are obvious--but Morris went further, stating that devices attuned to biometric signatures could allow mobile phones to replace objects we lose every day. A key or credit card can be stolen and easily abused, for example, but criminals would have trouble exploiting a mobile application that unlocks doors or processes transactions only after verifying the user's identity.

Morris asserted that credit card companies, which he said have "a huge issue with fraudulent charges," could particularly benefit.

Olga Raskin, a senior consultant at IBG, wrote in an email that biometrics are in some ways more suited to enterprise environments, in which verification data is collected in controlled settings, than to law enforcement applications, where high-quality query content cannot always be procured. She said certain ease-of-use issues, such as "people with dry hands [who] often can't produce good fingerprints," could slow adoption, as could privacy concerns. Even so, she said, increased convenience will probably lead consumers to readily adopt at least some biometric implementations.

Mobile employees' data and apps need protecting. Here are 10 ways to get the job done. Also in the new, all-digital 10 Steps To E-Commerce Security special issue of Dark Reading: Mobile technology is forcing businesses to rethink the fundamentals of how their networks work. (Free registration required.)

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