Are Biometrics Safer than Passwords for My Business?

Cybersecurity

Data security requires ensuring that only those who need it can see your data. For a secure IT environment, it's essential to use authentication methods that restrict access only to those with the proper credentials.

There are many ways to do that.  

However, in this article, we'll examine two of the most common authentication methods used today: biometrics and passwords. 

Both methods offer an additional layer of security for your organization. Though neither are infallible, they can improve your chances of preventing data theft. But which one of the two is more secure? 

Intelligent Technical Solutions (ITS) is a managed security services provider (MSSP) with years of experience in the cybersecurity space, and we've answered that question dozens of times before for many of our clients. In this article, we'll dive into the pros and cons of both passwords and biometrics to help you decide which method might work best for your business. 

Fingerprint scan on digital display for secure access highlighting the importance of biometrics in cybersecurity

What's the Difference Between Biometrics and Passwords? 

Passwords are security mechanisms that use a secret combination of characters specified by the user to prove their identity. On the other hand, biometrics are security mechanisms that use an individual's unique biological traits, such as their face and fingerprints, to verify their identity. 

Both methods have advantages and drawbacks, and the answer to which one is safer depends on various factors. 

Pros and Cons of Using Passwords for Your Business 

Login screen on a device showing password entry, representing traditional cybersecurity methods

Below are some of the advantages and disadvantages of using passwords:

Benefits of using passwords for your business: 

1. Familiarity

If you've ever touched a computer or a smartphone, you're already familiar with using passwords to verify your identity. Passwords are one of the oldest authentication methods, and that's why everyone's familiar with them and why they're widely used around the world. That means there's basically no learning curve to using them. 

2. Flexibility and Customizability

Passwords are flexible and easily customizable, as the user can choose and change their password anytime. That means you can easily adjust its level of complexity depending on what you want or change it quickly should it ever be compromised. 

3. Compatibility

As we mentioned before, passwords are one of the oldest authentication methods. That means you don't need to worry about whether they're compatible with legacy systems and old devices. It's because they are, and most of the time, they won't require special hardware or software to implement. 

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Drawbacks of using passwords for your business: 

1. Easy to Forget or Lose

Passwords are easy to forget or lose, as a typical user has multiple passwords to remember for different accounts or devices. It can be confusing for anyone, especially if the password uses random symbols and characters. 

2. Vulnerable to Attack

Passwords are vulnerable to hacking or guessing. They can be cracked by brute force attacks or stolen by phishing or malware. Not to mention, anyone within a few feet of someone typing in their password can look at the keyboard and discover the password being entered. 

3. Human Factor

Here's an alarming fact: the most common password in the world is "123456." The fourth is the word password itself. That means a hacker can just go through the list of the most common passwords and get into the accounts of millions of people. Users often choose weak passwords or reuse them across multiple accounts because it's more convenient. Unfortunately, it also makes them extremely vulnerable to hacking. 

Pros and Cons of Using Biometrics for Your Business 

Hand interacting with fingerprint on a digital screen for biometric access

Check out some of the advantages and disadvantages of using biometrics:

Benefits of using biometrics for your business: 

1. Convenience

Biometrics are much easier to use than passwords as they don't require users to remember or input complex strings of symbols and numbers to access data. It also means users will never forget their login credentials, as the authentication method uses parts of their bodies to gain access.  

2. Unique

Biometric features, such as fingerprints or retina scans, are unique to individuals, making it difficult for unauthorized users to replicate. Biometrics provide an additional layer of security as they require the physical presence of a legitimate user to access data or a device. 

3. Difficult to Share

Biometric information is difficult to share or steal because it is part of the user's body. Unlike passwords, which can be shared, guessed, or phished, biometric authentication eliminates those vulnerabilities. 

Drawbacks of using biometrics for your business: 

1. Not Easily Changeable

Unlike passwords, which you can change when you suspect they have been compromised, a biometric feature cannot be reset easily. In addition, you also have to consider that your biometric data can be damaged, altering it permanently. For example, scars and burns on your fingertips that go deeper than the outer layer of skin will change your fingerprint for good. In both cases, you will have to go through the necessary steps again to update your biometric information. 

2. Compatibility Issues

Older devices and systems might not be compatible with biometrics.  If what you're using now is incompatible, implementing biometrics might require third-party software and hardware, which could be more costly than just using secure passwords. 

3. Privacy Concerns

The use of biometrics raises privacy and ethical concerns, as that data can reveal sensitive information about the user, which third parties can misuse. Biometric data is inherently sensitive because it is unique to every individual and can reveal a range of personal information beyond mere identity verification. 

For example, a fingerprint scan can potentially expose your location and access history if it is logged and stored over time. Similarly, facial recognition data can be used to track your location and behaviors in various public and private spaces. Retina scans might reveal certain health conditions, as retinal patterns can change with diseases like diabetes or hypertension. Given these possibilities, third parties with access to biometric data could misuse this information for surveillance, marketing, or unauthorized tracking. 

While most third parties that handle biometric information will take cybersecurity seriously, there will always be a risk of data theft. 

User accessing a secure system with biometrics, exemplifying advanced cybersecurity over traditional passwords

Which One Should You Use for Your Business? 

Biometrics and passwords have their strengths and weaknesses, and neither is perfect. The best option may depend on the situation and your preference. For optimal security, it may be advisable to use a combination of both methods, such as biometric authentication with a backup password. Additionally, it is important to follow best practices for creating and managing passwords, such as using strong and unique passwords for each account, changing them regularly, and using a password manager. 

Need Help Implementing a Secure Authentication Method for Your Business? 

Biometrics and passwords have their own pros and cons, but both can help secure your business. Simply put, having either one is always better than not having any authentication method at all. The choice all boils down to which one you can implement properly while ensuring secure policies and best practices are followed. 

ITS has helped hundreds of businesses secure their data by implementing advanced security solutions, including authentication systems. Find out how we can help you by scheduling a meeting with one of our experts. Or check out the following resources to find out more about passwords and biometrics: 

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