Is your IT security policy ready for facial recognition?

April 9, 20183 minute read.

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When Apple unveiled the iPhone X, facial recognition hit the mainstream at last. Now, millions of people all over the world are using their face to unlock their devices every day, and it’s completely normal. Apple ushered in the era of fingerprint biometrics, and now, it’s doing the same for your face’s data, too—which will change your IT security policy for good.

Facial recognition technology existed in the past, but it wasn’t effective. It proved easy to spoof your face with a video or just a photo for many implementations, and it frequently failed to recognize your actual face, particularly as you aged or changed your appearance. Face ID is a big leap forward because the feature combines a number of new technologies—including machine learning, dot projectors, and infrared depth mapping—to create a secure, reliable experience. That was only possible thanks to technology acquired from PrimeSense in 2013, which found its way into the iPhone X nearly four years later.

Could facial recognition finally be a part of everyday life? If so, you might be bouncing off the ground with excitement, because high levels of security that don’t constantly get in the way of the user are important wins for the office.

Advance to the next level of biometrics

Have you been dreaming of office drones? Well, that’s not a reality yet, but Face ID will take you one step closer to that dream. Microsoft is all over facial recognition tech, too: they introduced a technology alongside Windows 10 in 2015 called Windows Hello, which allows secure, rapid unlock of your users’ devices.

Windows Hello, as you might have noticed, launched before the iPhone X, but it was a little-noticed feature, with few supported devices. Fast-forward to 2018, and almost all manufacturers of laptops sell models supporting Hello, and desktop computers can gain the feature with a USB webcam. Windows Hello requires additional hardware, because it uses additional data, like Apple, to authenticate the user properly. Enabling the feature for your users means they can log in using their face in just seconds, and if it doesn’t work, they can still use their domain password.

This might seem like something out of science fiction, particularly if you haven’t tried modern facial recognition yet: It’s fast, secure, and works smoothly. For corporate environments, it’s a game changer that can transform your IT security policy, because it allows your users to try new ways to authenticate without compromising security.

Enhance your IT security policy

The reality is—as hard as it is for those of you who use bleeding-edge technology daily—users are terrible at passwords and security, in general. Password reuse, poor password strength, and other issues are still common, and nothing about that’s changing. You can force all the regular password rotations you like, but your users will still get lazy.

Even so, new ways of authentication can back up your old security methods, making it even more secure than a single credential alone and keeping your lazy users safer without them even realizing it. For instance, a new feature in Windows 10 for Business allows your IT department to require biometric information, like facial or fingerprint data, as well as a second factor, like a PIN code, password, or secure USB key. As attacks increase in frequency, this is a major improvement you should consider today.

When is facial recognition technology acceptable, and when do you need further credentials to prove the user is really authenticated? While modern facial recognition is more secure than previous implementations, it’s no alternative to a strong, protected password. Some of your most sensitive data, for example, might need to be protected by further credentials. Combining biometric authentication with a second factor is a powerful way to beef up your organization’s security.

Passwords aren’t going to disappear anytime soon, but you can make the experience just a little bit more tolerable for everyone involved. By removing friction to getting into their devices, you can encourage your users to protect themselves—and your network—better, and if that sounds good to you, then it might be time to consider biometric authentication or alternative ways to boost your IT security.

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