Unisys sees biometrics ‘tipping point’

Thursday, January 1, 2009

BLUE BELL, Pa.--Unisys’ annual survey of American consumers, gauging their level of anxiety about personal and national security, has turned up something vice president of enterprise security Mark Cohn said implores security integrators to “go beyond traditional physical security.”

Seventy percent of Americans are now willing to give banks and government agencies biometric data for identity verification, and are equally accepting of a fingerprint as a request for password or PIN number. But, “we’re not talking about employee access to secure facilities,” said Cohn. “We’re talking about protecting private information and online access.” However, “many of the solutions that are implied here are using technologies that are most prevalent for physical access control.” Integrators, he said, need to travel with those technologies into new markets of data and identity protection.

“The public receptivity to biometrics is growing to the point where it’s at a tipping point,” Cohn said.

And it’s not just fingerprints. Sixty-one percent of respondents said they were comfortable with iris scanning, for example. Fifty-two percent would accept facial recognition as an identity authenticator.

Cohn said the results aren’t necessarily surprising, and reflect recent customer feedback to Unisys. “We’re seeing a customer perspective where they’re both interested in who’s accessing the facility and who’s accessing the computers,” he said. “So the question is, if somebody made a transaction, did they log on correctly, and when did they come into the facility?”

Not only can the systems now be integrated to correlate physical location with network access, but consumers are increasingly both comfortable with, and demanding, biometric readers to authenticate identity. “One of the concerns financial institutions and government agencies have is whether there will be voluntary use of that technology,” Cohn said, “and what the survey is telling us is that we can expect a biometric technology will be viewed the same way as a PIN or password, and given that we know passwords or PINs can be compromised,” biometrics are now the better solution.