The Key to Modern Access Control: How Biometric Solutions Can Offer Both Security and Convenience

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Maria Pihlström, senior global marketing manager, Fingerprints

Meeting the security challenges of modern office environments is a complex and long-standing issue for many organizations. Businesses use a range of enterprise technologies to boost productivity, connect employees, and accommodate a more distributed and flexible workforce. However, with greater flexibility come increasing security demands – both in and outside the office.

Employers and employees alike are more conscious about privacy and security than ever before. Meanwhile, traditional security measures are no longer aligned with modern needs.

Today’s workplaces require access solutions that combine convenience, simplicity and robust security, placing biometrics firmly in the spotlight.

Beyond Passwords and PINs

Relying on traditional security methods, such as passwords and PINs, is not viable long term, and the demand for more streamlined access continues to escalate. As our daily lives become more connected and digital, 60 percent of consumers feel they have too many passwords to remember, with the average person having as many as 85 passwords across all professional and personal accounts. Unsurprisingly, 40 percent admit to re-using the same password or injecting simple variations, increasing the risk of a breach.

Businesses are keen to look beyond passwords and PINs, especially as 60 percent of hacking incidents involve stolen credentials. Although passwords are currently the most common authentication method, Gartner predicts that, by 2022, 60 percent of large and 90 percent of mid-size enterprises will implement password-less authentication methods in more than half of use cases.

So where does the answer lie? As unique biometric traits are highly specific and difficult to steal and spoof, integrating biometric technology into the workplace for physical and logical access could be the solution businesses need to realize a new era of workplace security.

Securing Convenience With Biometrics

In the workplace, biometrics can secure a wide range of devices and access points, from laptops, PCs and peripherals to access pads and key fobs. Biometrics can offer a standalone authentication method or be part of a multi-factor approach, providing an additional layer of security to existing solutions without hindering user convenience. They can also offer personalization benefits. Once authenticated, users can instantly access their stored settings on PCs at office “hot desks,” and even on coffee machines.

Ensuring robust data security is critical. April 2021 saw approximately 1 billion data records exposed through breaches and hacks, while the introduction of data privacy legislation such as Europe’s GDPR has placed organizations at serious financial risk if they are lax with their protection and policies. Biometrics have a role to play here, too. By limiting access to authorized users, the risk of hacks through lost or stolen credentials is dramatically reduced.

On-Device Security

While the benefits may be clear, some organizations are wary of implementing biometrics because of privacy concerns. After all, managing employee biometric data poses several technical and ethical challenges.

By choosing solutions with on-device authentication – whereby a user’s biometric data is encrypted, contained and matched within the device – businesses can deliver to their employees the benefits of biometrics, without the complex administrative burden of a centrally managed and secured biometric database. This type of authentication is available in devices such as smartcards, laptops, smartphones and even USB tokens. Not only does this approach to implementing biometrics reassure businesses, but it also reduces employee concerns regarding the protection of their most personal data.

Playing the Strongest Card

Biometric access cards are one way to implement biometric authentication. Each access card is linked to a specific cardholder, who registers their fingerprint on it. When entering a building or office, or logging into any system, the card’s biometrics must match the person using the card, ensuring that only authorized employees gain access.

In workplaces where restricted access is in place for different environments, such as labs, hospitals or private offices, biometric cards ensure that only authorized employees can gain access to each area. When combined with other smartcard functions, such as ID badges, time and attendance logs, and alarm management systems, the value of biometric access cards only increases.

As demand for more hygienic access grows in the wake of the pandemic, users are increasingly drawn to contactless access methods. By implementing biometric access cards, enterprises can provide a secure and hygienic environment and remove some multi-touch surfaces, like keypads for PIN entry.

Put simply, biometric access cards can be thought of as a modern-day key. Compared with traditional access cards or keys, though, biometric cards offer far greater flexibility, simplicity and convenience. Furthermore, as use is limited to the authorized user, there is no security risk should an employee lose control of their card.

Integrating Biometrics

Biometric authentication is highly robust, and the latest solutions offer considerably greater security than their authentication predecessors – PINs, passwords and physical keys. It represents an opportunity for enterprises to empower their employees with smart, secure and convenient access.

Taking steps to realize the future of workplace security with biometrics is easier than many might think. Biometric sensor technology has gained momentum in smartphones and other commercial products, so it is already familiar to many employees. Security, both logical and physical, remains a complex challenge for many businesses. As the need for convenient yet secure authentication grows, biometrics will play a vital role in building the future of workplace security.

Maria Pihlström is senior global marketing manager at Fingerprints.