How Biometrics Can Replace Passwords

By Paco Garcia

Over the past few years, we have seen an unprecedented number of data breaches with a huge amount of sensitive personal information exposed. Despite this, people are still struggling to secure online accounts and protect personal data. This is partly due to a reliance on usernames and passwords, which are a flawed security measure that can easily fall into the wrong hands.

Furthermore, we have to trust companies with our data, yet 87% of people say they don’t trust businesses will protect their personal information. Data breaches are hitting the headlines almost daily, creating anxiety for millions of internet users, and emphasising the flaws in the current systems.

People are required to create so many passwords that convenience often trumps security as they reuse the same password across different sites; in fact more than 80% of people say they do this. This isn’t surprising given that over the past decade or two of our digital lives, each of us has accumulated an average of more than 100 websites and apps, each requiring a password.

Many have reached the end of their tether, and are fed up with passwords, but don’t know of a viable alternative.

A safer and easier alternative to passwords.

Thankfully, advances in technology means biometrics are set to transform the future of authentication, and many companies are already using biometric technology as a secure alternative to passwords. Biometrics are unique to each person so their use makes organisations more secure and allows businesses to know exactly who they are interacting with.

Businesses can conduct KYC checks with confidence; fraud rates will drop; websites can eliminate fake profiles and build trust in their interactions with people. As we continue to see companies like MasterCard, Nationwide and Apple adopt biometric technology, it’s clear that biometrics are no longer a gimmick but part of a new era of security.

How will biometrics impact the customer experience?

Biometrics give companies the flexibility to choose the level of security they require without impacting the customer experience. For example, you may be asked to use your fingerprint when logging into your banking app, but could then be asked to take a selfie to authorise a payment or speak into a microphone to change your address. As biometrics are so varied, different types can be used to authenticate different actions. And people are already becoming accustomed to using their biometrics, with over a fifth of the UK’s smartphone users now authenticating with their fingerprint.

The key to adoption is keeping it simple for businesses and consumers to integrate and use. Biometrics can help companies strike the right balance between convenience and security. By using fingerprints to log into apps, there’s no need to rack our brains for that elusive password, or expose data by using the same password across different websites. This provides a much better experience whilst protecting personal information.

It’s important to note that we can’t take a ‘one size fits all’ approach – companies need to find the right level of security for their operations and customers. A bank for example is likely to use a variety of biometrics and have higher authentication methods than an online retailer. But do people actually want this? 56% of people said they would prefer to use a biometric security method over traditional options like passwords to log into their financial accounts online.

With data hacks happening almost every day, an alternative to passwords is vital to protect our personal information. Over the coming months and years, more and more companies will be turning to biometrics to replace passwords in an effort to improve their security. It seems like a change is on the horizon…

The author, Paco Garcia, is the CTO of Yoti, a Global Cyber Alliance partner. You can follow them on Twitter @getyoti.


Editor’s Note: The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of the Global Cyber Alliance.