Biometric Databases as the New Target

Frost & Sullivan says the significant breach and vulnerabilities recently discovered by vpnMentor researchers within Suprema’s BioStar 2 database are enough to scare any potential end user away from biometric security measures. With potentially over 1 million fingerprint biometrics and user passwords exposed in the breach, BioStar 2 has become the first major example of how biometric access still has its own vulnerabilities that vendors, integrators, and end users must be aware of before implementing any of these solutions within their organization.

The most egregious of BioStar 2’s vulnerabilities were its biometric database that was unprotected when connected to the internet and a lack of encryption for stored fingerprints and facial recognition bases. This allowed hackers to get into the biometric database and access stored user fingerprints and facial data, potentially add and change user profiles, and provide a convenient entry point into the end-user’s total network. Hackers were able to access passwords and log entries listing user names, profiles, biometric data, and passwords for user and administrator accounts listed in plain text—some of the most valuable data for fraudsters to obtain.

The consequences of data like this falling into the wrong hands could be catastrophic to an end user, particularly considering the breadth of BioStar 2’s customer base. Affected customers include gyms, co-working spaces, software consultancies, and consumer foods, medical, and industrial products manufacturers. It hits Suprema’s global customer base throughout North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Suprema has shown interest in expanding BioStar 2’s customer base to include government, banking, and law enforcement—verticals that will quickly shy away from any security vendor that does not have proper data security protocols in place.

Biometric data points, such as fingerprints and facial data, simply cannot be stored as full, unencrypted data points; current industry expertise emphasizes the need to have this data saved in a hashed format, preventing the biometric from being reverse-engineered by hackers. Since users cannot change their face or fingerprint, the onus falls on security vendors to ensure that processes similar to reverse hashing and database encryption pieces are top-tier to protect this valuable data from falling into the wrong hands.

While this may be one of the first data breaches to target biometric data, it most certainly will not be the last. The sheer scale of BioStar 2, unfortunately, made the system one of the first to reveal the vulnerabilities of biometric access control solutions; however, this will not stop the exponential growth and adoption rates of biometric solutions. Fingerprint and facial recognition remain the most in-demand biometrics out there for physical access solutions across various industries. This breach will not scare away potential end-user purchases; rather, it will serve to inform them of the types of security protocols a vendor must have in place before a potential end user finalizes any new system purchase. Vendors must be ready to answer end-user questions about data access, precisely how their solution stores biometric data, and what encryption protocols are in place.

End users are quickly assessing their own risk profiles and the best solutions to protect their organization. Any biometric security vendor unwilling or unable to best address an end-users’ risk concerns and data protection questions will quickly see their stature in this high-growth market diminish.

Read more at Frost & Sullivan

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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