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Are we ready for biometrics to speed us to the airport gate?

Jul 24, 20173 mins

Are the current implementations of biometrics ready for mass adoption?

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We’ve all been there more times than we can count, having arrived at the airport hours early, still anxious about getting stuck in endless security lines. Will we ever make it to the gate? However, biometric authentication points to a future of seamless check-in, bag drop, payments and boarding — all features that would seem to be terrific for airlines’ forward thinking and enough to deploy them at scale. But are the current implementations ready for mass adoption?

While the use of biometrics are earning high praise for the airlines leveraging them, there’s a critical security flaw being overlooked. Bulk storage of biometrics, or any valuable data, on a server, inevitably leaves them exposed to being stolen. One of many recent examples was the federal government’s OPM data breach. Theft of this sort of personal data is not only a breach in trust for those affected, but would likely ensure they never use biometric authentication again.

As appealing as biometric authentication may seem, the technology in testing still falls short on security, risk management and privacy.

Decentralized biometric authentication is different.

Already being adopted by top financial institutions, the decentralized method allows users to hold biometric data on their device, and only sends a one-time verification token for authorization. When your information never leaves your phone, it’s much harder to steal.

With this sort of reassurance in place, the traveling public is ready to embrace biometrics. In its Passenger IT Trends survey, SITA, a leading air transport communications specialist, found that 57 percent of travelers would use biometric authentication on their next trip. Travelers who have already benefited from the convenience reported higher levels of satisfaction during their travel experience. 

The SITA survey also reveals some concerns about privacy and whether a person can impersonate another. Of travelers, 33 percent responded with these concerns, and for good reason. Upon the launch of Apple Pay, there were incidents when a person purchased a new device and assumed another’s identity. Obviously, we don’t want that to happen at airports. While this has more to do with identity management than authentication, it introduces another set of security risks that need to be resolved prior to deployment.

As the use of biometric authentication continues to gain widespread adoption, it’s critical that airlines introduce these offerings in a way that adds next-gen personal security to the equation. Getting us safely on our way while removing the friction we’re increasingly experiencing delivers on the promise of safe and secure air travel we all dream of.


George Avetisov, co-founder and CEO of HYPR, a provider of enterprise-facing decentralized authentication solutions, is a seasoned cyber security veteran with over a decade of experience battling identity theft and cyber fraud. He has experience in developing cyber fraud and e-commerce security for Fortune 500 companies and continues to work across the technology space for connected devices.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of George Avetisov and do not necessarily represent those of IDG Communications, Inc., its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.