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Cybercrime is on the rise. Its costs are expected to exceed $6 trillion per year by 2021. Standard forms of authentication like pins and passwords are often not enough to prevent an attack, which is why we see two-factor and multifactor authentication showing up in more places.

Cybersecurity requires finding a balance between protection and convenience for the user. If security measures for a device or service are too complicated and time-consuming, people won't use it. However, they also will not use it if it cannot keep their data secure.

One potential solution to this quandary is behavioral biometrics.

What Is Behavioral Biometrics?

Behavioral biometrics goes beyond even regular biometric measures like recognition of facial features, signature, and voice. Behavioral biometrics analyzes patterns in a person’s actions. It measures how a person typically uses their devices, and if it detects unusual usage, it will raise a red flag.

Behavioral biometrics can involve measuring how you hold your device, hand-eye coordination, hand tremors, finger movements and other habits. These behaviors are things we don’t do consciously. They’re so nuanced that they are extremely hard to impersonate.

After measuring, a system can determine how likely a person is to be who they say they are. Because of the subtleties involved, they can't identify someone with 100 percent certainty and work best in combination with other authentication measures. 

Because of this, systems may ask for additional identification if behavioral biometrics raises a red flag. When combined with other factors such as location and time of use, this approach may be able to detect impersonators reliably.

Another benefit of behavioral biometrics is that it performs checks continuously in the background as someone uses a device. It also does not interfere with regular use, so it doesn't pose any inconveniences to users.

How Can We Use Behavioral Biometrics?

These technologies are not new, per se. You can trace the history of behavioral biometrics all the way back to the 1860s and the telegraph. It was eventually discovered that telegraph operators used the machines in unique, measurable ways, and the Allied Forces used this fact to identify fake messages during World War II.

The 1960s saw the invention of the first human acoustic speech production model, and by 1970, we had the first model of the behavioral components of speech.

As technology has progressed, we’ve discovered more opportunities for using behavioral biometrics. For the first time, it has found prevalence among the everyday consumer with the advent of personal devices like smartphones and tablets. Nearly 95.5 percent of the world’s population has mobile devices, and much of them are secured using biometric authentication systems.

Banking is a sector where behavioral biometrics has proven especially useful. Various banks now use it to warn their customers if someone may not be who they say they are, preventing would-be fraudulent transactions.

The Future of Security

The future of behavioral biometrics is promising, but we need to increase its accuracy to make it usable in the real world. As more companies realize its potential value, new businesses are popping up that offer behavioral biometric tech. As its capabilities progress, we'll begin to see more and more organizations adopt it.

The number of connected devices is also growing rapidly. Gartner Inc. predicts there will be 20.4 billion IoT devices by 2020, and every one of them needs cybersecurity measures in place.

It may even eventually make its way from the cyber world to the physical security world. Cameras in an office building, for instance, may be to analyze the way someone walks and otherwise moves and check it against the company’s employees. A camera outside of a store may even be able to detect whether someone appears nervous or otherwise suspicious.

Admittedly, cyber and physical security are already becoming intertwined with the growing popularity of smart door locks, security cameras and other similar devices.

Behavioral biometrics may be the next major trend that brings physical and cybersecurity together and offers more safety and convenience to the users of today’s devices.

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