Definition: Biometrics refers authentication methods that are based upon a user's physical characteristics (e.g. fingerprint readers). There are several other biometric techniques. One of them is a whole hand print reader used for identification and to control access. Another device actually scans the user's retina and compares the information with that which is on file for a legitimate user. Also, a voice print or facial recognition software can be used to grant access. There are advantages and disadvantages to using biometrics, however, advances in the technology are continuing. Security best practices are evolving to include multi-factor authentication (e.g. a password and fingerprint-reading device.
Its Relevance: Access controls based upon a user's physical characteristics can be highly effective and successful component of a multi-layered access control program. Individuals who wish to gain unauthorized access would find it difficult to defeat such systems. The systems that are described above in the definition are, however, more expensive to implement. Extra storage space and specialized hardware and software would be required at each access point.