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Biometrics Goes Mainstream for Digital Identity Authentication

The tide is turning when it comes to consumer perspectives around digital identity and authentication: A report from IBM Security has found that people now prioritize security over convenience when logging into applications and devices, while biometrics is going mainstream.

The Future of Identity study, which surveyed nearly 4,000 adults from across the US, Asia Pacific (APAC) and Europe, uncovered that security has become the highest priority for logging in to the majority of applications, particularly when it came to money-related apps: 70% of respondents ranked security as the top priority over convenience or privacy when logging into investing, budgeting, and banking apps. 

However, the report found generational differences in terms of how that security is enabled. Younger adults are putting less care into traditional password hygiene yet are more likely to use biometrics, multifactor authentication and password managers to improve their personal security.

About 67% of all respondents are comfortable using biometric authentication today (and 87% said they will be in the future), compared to 75% of those aged 20-36. However, less than half of millennials are using complex passwords and 41% reuse passwords. Older generations showed more care with password creation but were less inclined to adopt biometrics and multifactor authentication.

With millennials quickly becoming the largest generation in today’s workforce, these trends may impact how employers and technology companies provide access to devices and applications in the near future, IBM noted.

Overall, respondents recognized the benefits of biometric technologies like fingerprint readers, facial scans and voice recognition, as threats to their digital identity continue to mount. Asia-Pacific is leading the charge on this front; respondents in APAC were the most knowledgeable and comfortable with biometric authentication, while the US lagged furthest behind.

The evolving threat and technology landscape has created widely known challenges with traditional log-in methods that rely heavily on passwords and personal information to authenticate our identities online. In 2017, data breaches exposed personal information, passwords and Social Security numbers for millions of consumers. Additionally, the average internet user in America is managing over 150 online accounts that require a password, which is expected to rise to over 300 accounts in coming years.

“In the wake of countless data breaches of highly sensitive personal data, there’s no longer any doubt that the very information we’ve used to prove our identities online in the past is now a shared secret in the hands of hackers,” said Limor Kessem, executive security adviser, IBM Security. “As consumers are acknowledging the inadequacy of passwords and placing increased priority on security, the time is ripe to adopt more advanced methods that prove identity on multiple levels and can be adapted based on behavior and risk.” 

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