Welcome to The CITE -- a blog on Course materials, Innovation, and Technology in Education, created by Mark Nelson and now part of the Publications Department of the National Association of College Stores. CITE is a pun with multiple meanings - referring to cite as in citation, something people reference; site as in location, website, or place people go to; and sight as in foresight or looking ahead to what is coming. Comments, discussion, feedback and ideas are welcome.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Biometrics Offer Convenience with a Catch

Colleges and universities are no doubt watching the development of biometrics security with interest. Biometrics might be the remedy for a number of headaches for schools, such as authenticating exam-takers for online programs, dealing with students who frequently lose their campus ID cards, and thwarting professional thieves trying to rip off the bookstore.

Companies are coming out with new systems that scan fingerprints, a face, or an iris, or that match voices to a recorded database. Users don’t need to remember a password or carry a piece of plastic, although some systems work through smartphones.

However, biometrics aren’t foolproof, as NPR’s All Tech Considered noted. Savvy fraudsters could trick a biometric system with a high-resolution photo of a face or a recording of someone’s voice. If that happens, taking care of a hack becomes more difficult.

“Either a password or a biometric can be stolen,” David Cowan of the Bessemer Venture Partners investment firm told NPR. “But only the password can be changed. Once your fingerprint is stolen, it’s stolen forever, and you’re stuck.”

Some suggest biometrics might be helpful only with low-risk security, such as locking down mobile devices to keep snoopy roommates out.

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