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Introduction and Background
A biometric is a biological or behavioral characteristic in humans that can be measured using automated
methods for identity recognition. Examples include fingerprint, iris, face, speech, vein patterns and other
U.S. airport access control systems have used badges in various forms to automate the process of entry
access. The early use of automated badge readers was based on magnetic stripe cards or other possession-
based credentials. Many airports then migrated to contactless proximity cards which employ Radio
Frequency (RF) transmission; and some have further migrated to so-called “smart cards”. Smart cards can
use either contact interfaces or contactless high frequency RF interfaces and incorporate an embedded
microprocessor chip to intelligently manage multi-factor authentication functions.
authentication can include knowledge and possession factor authentication. In other words, something the
user has in their possession and something the user knows, such as a PIN.
While these measures provide some level of security, they still do not positively link an access transaction
to a card user – only the inherence, or biometric, factor can do this. The inherence factor is something that
the user is. Biometrically-enabled access control using smart cards is the next step in this evolutionary
process. Biometrics-based access control systems allow the airport operator to make an accurate
determination that the person requesting access is the same individual who was granted the privilege by
leveraging the knowledge, possession and inherence factors in an identity access transaction.
The key issue for controlling access to secured areas of an airport is validating the identity of an individual
who seeks such access. A biometrically-enabled reader will help to address this issue. Identity assurance
should be implemented in concert with consistent, defined assurance levels based on a risk/management
analysis of security requirements for each point of access. An Identity Management-Credential Issuance
System (IdM-CIS), composed of the applications, databases and services to manage the lifecycle of an
individual credential, is an important enabler to implement a security access control system.
Reasons to Use Biometrics
There are several reasons to consider using biometrics for airport access control. These are summarized
Biometric authentication links an event, such as an access transaction, to a particular individual and
not just to a PIN or badge. This provides an audit trail that is not easily repudiated. Biometric
authentication links the user to both a privilege and a historical transaction.
Biometrics protects the user against unauthorized use of their identity for transactions.
Biometrics represents an enhancement to user convenience since there is nothing to remember,
such as a PIN.
A biometric characteristic is not transferrable to another person and cannot be guessed, stolen,
shared, lost or forgotten.
Biometric technology enhances security by helping to prevent unauthorized access.
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