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Robert Siciliano Headshot

Biometrics: To Be or Not to Be?

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New Hampshire, USA. "Live Free or Die," baby. The official state motto emblazoned on every NH license plate has always intrigued me. The thought of someone from NH might bring to mind revolutionaries or America militia sympathizers. New Hampshire has come a long way since its motto was created in 1945 and is not much different than most states today.

I live in Boston, one click south of Newy, and all those NH people work in Boston. I see them every day driving their fancy new fanlge auto-mo-biles with their fancy stereo phonic systems. Pleeeze. If any state should adopt the "Live Free or Die" motto it's Montana, USA. I've been to MT bunches of times. They sell guns and beer and fishing rods and meat at gas stations. NH ain't gut nuthin' on MT. Plus MT had Evel Knievel and he lived in Butte. Now that's a" Live Free or Die" town.

But it comes as no surprise that Newy is back to its shenanigans again and acting out of concerns for residents' privacy. The New Hampshire Legislature is considering a bill that would ban the use of biometrics data in identification cards. "Acting out" being the operative term. Or are they rightfully concerned?

As noted in SC, "The bill would prohibit biometrics data, including fingerprints, retinal scans and DNA, from being used in state or privately issued ID cards, except for employee ID cards. In addition, it would ban the use of ID devices or systems that require the collection or retention of an individual's biometric data. Under the bill, biometric data would also include palm prints, facial feature patterns, handwritten signature characteristics, voice data, iris recognition, keystroke dynamics and hand characteristics."

That doesn't leave much left. Why don't they just ban them-thar fo-toe-grafs too? Come on NH, the world has evolved beyond cow tipping and flaming bags of poop on your neighbor's door step.

In response, the Security Industry Association stated "SIA firmly believes that the broad restrictions proposed by [the bill] ... reflects a significant misunderstanding of the security features and privacy safeguards of this widely-adopted technology,"

I'd say that's more than a misunderstanding. Some believe biometrics to be the "Mark of the Beast".

"Some have suggested biometrics, themograms, or bodily ID systems, such as iris scans, fingerprints, voice patterns, facial features, etc. as the mark of the beast. Biometrics ID could not be the mark of the beast because the mark of the beast is something you "receive". An iris scan, voice scans, fingerprints, biometrics are NOT something you receive. It's simply part of a person's bodily features. In this case, every one would "have" the "mark"."

With this kind of resistance to security, it's amazing we get anything done. Biometrics is not an invasion of privacy. I also doubt the devil plays any role in them either. They are a tool to identify. Could they be abused? Yes. Should we be concerned? Of course. Should we ban them? Of course not.

In other parts of the world effective identification is actually embraced. Privacy concerns seem to take a back seat to security interests.

"Effective use of biometric data could have prevented the apparent theft of Anglo-Israelis' identities, MK Meir Sheetrit (Kadima), the architect of the country's Biometric ID Law, and a former minister of intelligence services, told The Jerusalem Post." This statement is in reference to a mess of a story regarding an assassination and the use of fake passports. The Register states that "all passports now issued contain 'biometric' details "which are unique to you - like your fingerprint, the iris of your eye, and your facial features". In addition, "the chip inside the passport contains information about the holder's face - such as the distances between eyes, nose, mouth and ears" which "can then be used to identify the passport-holder".

And they were tampered with, which means a failure of epic proportions. So, is NH right?

Meanwhile, CNN reports "in the name of improved security a hacker showed how a biometric passport issued in the name of long-dead rock 'n' roll king Elvis Presley could be cleared through an automated passport scanning system being tested at an international airport. Using a doctored passport at a self-serve passport machine, the hacker was cleared for travel after just a few seconds and a picture of the King himself appeared on the monitor's display."

Some stuff to chew on. Identity Proofing is the "ultimate" solution. Identity proofing simply means proving that individuals are who they say they are. Identity proofing often begins with personal questions, like the name of a first grade teacher or the make and model of a first vehicle that only the actual person would be able to answer. Of course, this technique is not foolproof, and now that personal information is so readily available over the Internet, knowledge-based authentication is probably on its way to extinction. The next step is documentation, such as a copy of a utility bill or a mortgage statement. These types of identifying documents can be scavenged from the trash, but they are more effective proof when combined with personal questions. Biometric features, such as fingerprints or iris scans, can help further authenticate an individual's identity.

Authentication is the ability to verify the identity of an individual based on their unique characteristics. This is known as a positive ID and is only possible by using a biometric. A biometric can be either static (anatomical, physiological) or dynamic (behavioral). Examples of each are: Static - iris, fingerprint, facial, DNA. Dynamic - signature gesture, voice, keyboard and perhaps gait. Also referred to as something you are.

Verification is used when the identity of a person cannot be definitely established. Technologies used provide real time assessment of the validity of an asserted identity. We don't know who the individual is but we try to get as close as we can to verify their asserted identity. Included in this class are out of wallet questions, PINS, passwords, tokens, cards, IP addresses, behavioral based trend data, credit cards, etc. These usually fall into the realm of something you have or something you know.

Allz I know is we guts to do something to fix this thing.

Protect your financial identity.

1. Get a credit freeze and follow the steps for your particular state. This is an absolutely necessary tool to secure your credit. In most cases, it prevents new accounts from being opened in your name. This makes your Social Security number useless to a potential identity thief.

2. Invest in anti-virus and keep it auto-updated and check out my spyware killer IDTheftSecurty HERE

3. With your iPhone get my book as an App or go to my website and get my FREE ebook on how to protect yourself from the bad guy.

4. Invest in Intelius identity theft protection and prevention. Not all forms of identity theft can be prevented, but identity theft protection services can dramatically reduce your risk. (Disclosures)

Around the Web

New Hampshire bill would ban biometrics in ID cards - SC Magazine US

Infosecurity (USA) - New Hampshire seeks to outlaw biometric IDs

New Hampshire considering banning biometrics in ID cards ...

New Hampshire Legislature Considers Banning Biometrics in State ...

SIA Opposes New Hampshire Biometric Bill -- Security Products

Biometrics: To Be or Not to Be? | BlogHer