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What's the Ultimate Password? Your Body?

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By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on December 09, 2015 11:02 AM

The legal community is increasing focused on issues relating to cybersecurity and hacking. It seems that every few months -- weeks, even -- some new retailer, financial services company, or bank announces that it got hacked. Shortly after these hacks, we're assured that the hacked business has undertaken a "comprehensive review" of the situation and "implemented significant changes" to prevent further attacks.

Turning to solutions offered by biometrics, companies now see the human body as the next frontier in security. But does this putative panacea deliver on its promises?

Passwords Are Obsolete

Consumers are forced to handle a mountain of individual passwords for a handful of companies. Most maddeningly, in the interim between hacks, most companies have little recourse up their sleeves except to make passwords longer. Some systems ask for special characters. Others don't. Some require a minimum length. No system seems to work perfectly.

Age of Biometrics?

An increasing number of academics and researchers have accepted biometrics as the next step in security. It's driven by the idea that while two persons can have the same password, nothing is quite so unique as the human body. Today, biometric devices are in wide use. The fingerprint scanner is the most recognizable example. But other parts of your body are unique only to you: your iris color and shape, the architecture of your bones, and even the unique pattern of veins in your finger.

If appears that biometrics are popping up all over the place, that isn't just your imagination. Goode Intelligence, a research and consulting company, expects that such devices will be the primary authentication means implemented by banks around the world.

Drawbacks

There has to be a catch somewhere -- and there are plenty.

Privacy is one that first springs to mind. Kim Nash at The Wall Street Journal writes that biometrics could be applied to track criminal's phone calls -- possibly by voice. Tracking criminals is one thing, but is that not a slippery slope to mass tracking? Not only that, the system has already failed in the world of science-fiction. Biometrics has the unfortunate effect of being reminiscent of a Minority Report-style hack in which one's eyeballs can be used to either gain access or evade detection. It sounds ridiculous, but within a few years, it won't. The scanner has already been made, you know.

Most important of all, the data used to verify the identify of the person carrying the biomarker can still be hacked. If anything, hacking that data would give identity thieves essentially the most private and critical information to access and infiltrate a person's life.

And how would the security community counter that? Passwords?

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