Biometrics Not Really Secure

Two-factor and multi-factor authentication are becoming more important and more available as we struggle to secure our information from attackers. These factors are something you know, something you have, and something you are.   Biometrics (something you are) are one of the three factors used in computer, network, and application authentication.

Biometrics include thumbprint or fingerprint readers, palm scanners, iris and retinal scanners, facial recognition, speech recognition, and even arcane systems that detect your keyboard typing cadence or mousing movements to authenticate you to a system.  Many people ask me if biometrics are more secure than passwords, pins, authentication apps, fobs and USB keys. My answer is no, not really.

NIST, the National Institute for Standards and Technology, says that biometrics are acceptable as a factor in a two-factor or multi-factor authentication system, but are not secure enough when used alone.  There are two problems inherent in biometrics that make unsuitable by themselves for authentication.  The first problem is that biometrics are not secret.  We leave our thumb and fingerprints behind every time we pick up or touch another item.  And fingerprints have been successfully lifted using clear tape and used to pass authentication.  Pictures can beat facial recognition, and recordings can beat voice recognition.

So if you are considering using biometrics as part of your security system, understand the limitations and make sure your system is not easily spoofed.


About the Author:

I am a cybersecurity and IT instructor, cybersecurity analyst, pen-tester, trainer, and speaker. I am an owner of the WyzCo Group Inc. In addition to consulting on security products and services, I also conduct security audits, compliance audits, vulnerability assessments and penetration tests. I also teach Cybersecurity Awareness Training classes. I work as an information technology and cybersecurity instructor for several training and certification organizations. I have worked in corporate, military, government, and workforce development training environments I am a frequent speaker at professional conferences such as the Minnesota Bloggers Conference, Secure360 Security Conference in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, the (ISC)2 World Congress 2016, and the ISSA International Conference 2017, and many local community organizations, including Chambers of Commerce, SCORE, and several school districts. I have been blogging on cybersecurity since 2006 at

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