Multi-factor authentication is a way of life in healthcare, where HIPAA, DEA-EPCS and other regulations require strict access control to medical records, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and more. It also plays a major role in food and drug manufacturing, finance, government and other enterprises that depend on secure logical access to information and equipment. As security threats continue to mount, that increasingly means just about any enterprise.

With the upcoming release of our WAVE ID® Bio reader, rf IDEAS now offers an all-in-one solution for multi-factor authentication that’s both super secure and super easy. It provides a biometric fingerprint reader, a Bluetooth® Low Energy mobile credential reader and a proximity/smart card reader in one sleek, modern, plug-and-play device that only consumes one USB port.

It’s super secure because multi-factor authentication requires the user to present at least two different credentials that are “something I know,” (a PIN or password), “something I have” (an ID card, token or mobile credential) or “something I am” (a biometric identifier). With the WAVE ID Bio, businesses can do away with the least secure of these—PINs and passwords that are notoriously easy to steal or hack—and replace it with a more secure alternative. Biometric authentication has the potential to accurately identify someone with as near 100% certainty as it’s possible to achieve.1

It’s super easy because there’s no need to remember a biometric identifier, no danger of misplacing it and no need carry it wherever you may need it. It’s always there. With the WAVE ID Bio, it’s right on the tip of your finger. Businesses can implement multi-factor authentication without issuing new credentials and without requiring any more from their users than a quick fingerprint scan at the same reader where they tap or wave their existing credential. WAVE ID Bio is also super easy to keep clean, an important consideration in today’s hypervigilant public health environment.

While everyone has encountered biometrics in one form or another, there are many misconceptions about how these technologies work in authentication scenarios and whether they’re really safe. Here are some of the top questions and concerns that we hear at rf IDEAS.

Are there different forms of biometric authentication?

The most common and familiar biometric identifier is a finger or thumbprint, as used with the WAVE ID Bio. It’s simple, fast and reliable. With today’s concerns about hygiene, it’s also much quicker and easier to clean than a PIN-entry pad or keyboard. But there are also completely touchless methods such as facial and voice recognition.

My phone unlocks with my fingerprint or my face, but I’m still not sure I trust it. Are biometrics really secure?

Great question. There are big differences between consumer-grade and enterprise-grade biometrics. You can trust your phone to lock out most people, but not a determined hacker. That’s because your fingerprint or face is just an alternative to a traditional PIN, not a replacement. Both your biometric data and PIN are stored together on the same device. Using a variety of social-engineering tactics, someone else could still unlock your phone and set it up to recognize their own fingerprint or face. But with enterprise-grade biometrics, a user’s finger or face can be a unique, independent authentication factor, not just an alternative to a PIN.

Plus, an enterprise has zero control over all its employees’ phones and their biometrics technologies. With enterprise-grade biometrics, a company can deliver the same authentication process across all secure devices. The biometric identifier is independent of the device itself, is stored separately on a secured database in highly encrypted form and is read using state-of-the-art algorithms that are virtually impossible to hack.

That said, in addition to the phone’s own unlocking mechanism, an app could reside on your phone that would serve as the front-end to a true enterprise-grade fingerprint, face or voice authentication system. And if enterprises store your biometric data in the cloud, that gives you all the convenience of mobile biometric access wherever you need it.

The cloud? Doesn’t that make it even more vulnerable to hackers than my phone?

No, not at all.  If you’re wondering how to keep biometric information secure, the cloud is far more secure than any personal device. Unlike your phone, biometric data stored in the cloud is very heavily encrypted. Liveness-detection algorithms can be applied to prevent spoofing—for example to prevent a criminal from using a photograph of your face to gain access.

Also, as mentioned earlier, enterprise-grade biometric data serves as a genuine, independent credential—not just as an alternative means of access that can be circumvented with a mere PIN. Plus, different enterprises have different hardware and software technologies for implementing biometric authentication, so even if a criminal were to somehow get hold of your biometric data in an unencrypted form, it would be virtually useless for accessing any other system. Financial institutions store your data in the cloud, and that’s how secure it can be. Think about that.

That’s reassuring, but are there any downsides to biometric authentication?

Very few, if any. It’s great for enterprises and their employees to be able to rely on a totally unique authentication factor that’s always available and virtually impossible to spoof or hack. It enables multi-factor authentication with no additional credential to carry and without the risks that come with weak, stolen or forgotten passwords. And with the WAVE ID Bio reader, you can get biometric authentication, Bluetooth Low Energy mobile authentication and card-based authentication all in one device that uses just one USB port.

One small concern we’ve been hearing lately involves settings like hospitals, pharmaceutical manufacturing or food production, where people often wear gloves for extended periods. We expect that face and voice identification systems will play an increasingly important role for these users, although fingerprint scanning is still very useful for applications such as electronic prescribing, patient check-in, pharmacy-cart access, industrial control systems and more.

What are the most compelling industries and applications for biometrics?

We believe the advantages of biometrics and multi-factor authentication apply to just about any industry We expect to see rapid adoption in the coming months and years. Some of the industries that are already taking full advantage include:

  • Healthcare, where several processes depend on maintaining strict security without impeding workflows, including:
    • Medical records access in compliance with patient privacy regulations such as HIPAA in the U.S.
    • Access to controlled substances in compliance with DEA-EPCS
    • Anesthesia attestation
    • Witnessing of medication wasting
    • Blood administration
    • Medical device access
    • And many other applications
  • Food, beverage and pharmaceutical manufacturing, where testing procedures require chain-of-custody control and documentation
  • Finance and banking, with biometric identification providing the ultimate proof of identity in transactions
  • Government, with a variety of systems and data that must be protected against unauthorized access
  • Large enterprises, enabling single sign-on and secure access to cloud services
  • OEMs, who are looking to differentiate products such as multi-function printers by incorporating biometrics and multi-factor authentication

Why should customers and partners choose rf IDEAS?

Today, our WAVE ID Bio offers multi-factor authentication with biometric, Bluetooth Low Energy, proximity and smart card technologies in a single reader. In the future, we’ll be announcing multi-factor products that incorporate touchless biometrics.

We provide the APIs and SDKs that developers need to easily integrate our readers into their authentication software and back-end systems. Our readers are trusted for their unsurpassed quality, reliability and simplicity—which is why we’ve always been the authentication provider of choice for healthcare, the choosiest market of all.

And we’re second to none for innovation, value, service and support. That’s why you should choose rf IDEAS. Whether you’re looking to implement biometrics in your organization or seeking a biometrics partner to collaborate with, let’s talk about what rf IDEAS can do for you. Get in touch with us today at [email protected].

1. Secure Identity Alliance, “Biometrics in identity: Building inclusive futures and protecting civil liberties: A best practices and recommendations guide.” June 2019.