Biometrics and Smart Cards – Physical Characteristics as Passwords
What Does the Term “Biometrics” Mean?
Biometrics is the technology of capturing and storing unique characteristics of human beings for the purpose of recognizing and verifying identity.
Biometric features are increasingly being deployed for user authentication in many of today’s most vital applications.
Unlike user authentication based on something the user knows, such as a PIN or password, or something he or she has, e.g. a smart card or other token, biometric systems work by relying on a physical characteristic – something that is both unique and inseparably linked to the person. Whilst PINs, passwords and keys can be forgotten, lost, lent or stolen, biometrics cannot. The user’s anatomy itself becomes the means of identification, the biological password.
Biometric user authentication can elevate overall system security and enhance ease of use, as users no longer have to remember PINs and passwords.
Before the system itself is used, in an initial process known as enrollment the selected biological feature is scanned by special sensors, using image processing software or other technologies to generate a biometric template; the template is then kept in a storage medium for use in the comparison cycle. When access to the application is requested, the biological feature is again scanned, a template is generated and compared with the stored biometric template, and the application unlocked if the result is a match.
Benefits of Fingerprint Verification
Smart Cards: The Secure Data Files
Smart cards are crucial elements in all security systems that use digital signatures. There is no more secure way of storing secret keys and certificates than on a smart card. The card can also be used to encrypt information and to generate or verify signatures and certificates.
The individual applications on the card are assigned internally to one of several security levels. An application can only be started if the card is currently set at the required security level – and the security levels can only be accessed via the appropriate authentication process. What does this mean? It may mean, for instance, that access to the lowest security level is secured by key authentication between card and terminal, to the second level by PIN verification, and to the third by verification of a biometric feature.
Biometric Applications from G&D
The G&D Biometrics Toolkit – Secure Authentication with the G&D Biometrics Toolkit
G&D supplies a fingerprint application employing on-card matching technology. On-card matching means that a biometric such as a fingerprint is compared with a stored template within the card. In the Giesecke & Devrient concept, the template is stored exclusively in the secure smart card environment, reliably protecting sensitive personal data against unauthorized access.
Applications of On-Card Matching Technology
Giesecke & Devrient’s on-card matching technology is based on the G&D STARCOS SPK 2.4 operating system, which already fulfills all the requirements of the recent German legislation on digital signatures and supports the PKCS 1/11/15 secure digital signature standards.
On-card matching technology is especially suitable for public key applications that demand secure, reliable verification of identity – e.g. in e-commerce, home banking or e-government. These are applications that are increasingly being integrated into modern ID systems, so that in future people will be able to send in tax returns or vehicle registration applications from their personal computers, or even vote in elections from the comfort of their own homes. Law offices and accounting firms, health care and network access control are other areas that offer excellent potential for this leading-edge technology.
On-card matching is an outstanding way of authenticating users of security applications that meets the three paramount requirements of security, ease of use and data privacy.