Biometric Authentication Solutions Are One of Government Agencies’ Strongest Defenses Against Cyberthreats

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In May 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order 14028 as a response to the rapidly growing number of cyberattacks leveled against both government agencies and the private sector.

Among the long list of cybersecurity requirements included in the order was a mandate for multi-factor authentication (MFA). MFA requires providing two or more of the following factors to achieve authentication:

 

  • Something you know, such as a password or personal identification number (PIN)
  • Something you have, such as a key, token or other cryptographic identification device
  • Something you are, which can be verified by a biometric authenticator such as a fingerprint reader, iris scan or facial recognition software

 

While multiple layers of authentication are required, government agencies have the freedom to choose whatever protections they want as their second layer. To ensure the highest level of security possible, government agencies should consider biometric access control. Biometrics authenticate trusted users based on their unique physical or behavioral characteristics, making it harder for malicious actors to imitate them.

 

Why passwords aren’t enough to keep sensitive assets safe

 

Before diving into government biometric authentication solutions, it’s important to understand why MFA is necessary in the first place. The limitations of standard password protection are the primary culprit.

For one, passwords are relatively easy for hackers to obtain. For some employees, calls to use a strong, unique password get pushed to the side. Password management becomes a hassle, and they either use a simple password or reuse one password across multiple accounts. But even complex, unique passwords aren’t necessarily safe. An experienced attacker knows how to crack an eight-character password in only five minutes. Leveraging tactics such as phishing scams and credential stuffing with new advances in AI has made cybercriminals more dangerous than ever.

Without a more advanced second layer of security, the attacker then has full access to the user’s account. For government agencies that deal with highly sensitive data, this can be catastrophic. Hackers aren’t shy about cashing in on their access — like in the infamous 2021 Colonial Pipeline hack, which resulted in a $5 million ransom payout. In addition to the immediate financial costs, a data breach can result in significant risk to national security, public safety and citizens’ privacy. With such high-profile visibility, government agencies simply can’t afford to put their assets at risk.

Passwords also create headaches for IT teams. When each employee has multiple passwords for each of their essential applications, it becomes difficult for IT to manage. Much of their time is spent managing password requests and login problems, taking away valuable time from other tasks. Ultimately, a password-centric security architecture is too porous to provide peace of mind.

 

The power of biometric authentication

 

So, how can government agencies move past non-secure password protection and toward security that actually keeps sensitive data safe? Through biometric authentication solutions.

 

WAVE ID BIO

Biometrics come in many different forms, including fingerprint scanning, eye scanning and facial and voice recognition. Each of these methods is connected to a specific physical or behavioral attribute that is different for each user. By building a biometric step into the login process, it becomes much more difficult for cybercriminals to gain unauthorized access. Stolen credentials only get them past the first step of the login process.

Unlike many traditional MFA measures, biometric authentication doesn’t complicate the user experience for trusted users. Instead of wasting time recovering lost passwords or searching spam folders for access codes, a user only needs their fingerprint or face to gain access to their account. This further cuts down on diverting resources from IT and allows your employees to avoid unnecessary friction.

Biometric authentication is a natural extension of the zero-trust approach to cybersecurity, which is another requirement outlined in the President’s Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity. Zero-trust architecture dictates that no user or device be automatically trusted when logging into an account or interacting with a secure system.

A zero-trust approach is fast becoming the standard in the public sector, and I anticipate biometrics will continue to grow in popularity as a result. Government agency leaders are recognizing the value of a unique identifier from both a security and efficiency perspective. As long as this is the case, biometrics will have their place in most security architectures.

 

Stay ahead of hackers with biometric authentication

 

Government agencies will continue to be a primary target for sophisticated hackers. Not to mention, their tactics and expertise will only become more effective — and dangerous — from here. Agencies have to keep up.

 

WAVE ID MINI

Biometric authentication is the first step. Biometrics can seamlessly slot into any existing MFA or FIDO2 setup and provide immediate benefits. The tailored nature of these tools ensures that verified users are able to access mission-critical information when they need to and that unverified users with stolen credentials are stopped before they gain access to government data.

Contact rf IDEAS today to learn more about how government biometric authentication solutions can help your organization remain secure.

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