Text vs. Biometric Liveness: A Battle of Authentication Methods

Shane Oren

Digital transactions are becoming more common around the world with each passing year. That makes having a reliable means to ensure the security of our online accounts and personal information absolutely crucial. 

To combat the rising threat of cyberattacks, multi-factor authentication (MFA) has emerged as a powerful tool, with two factors being the most prevalent. Two popular methods of implementing two-factor authentication (2FA) are through text messages (2FA via text) and biometric liveness verification (biometric 2FA). While both methods aim to bolster security, they possess distinct advantages and limitations. In this blog, we’ll explore the world of 2FA to compare these two approaches.

2FA via text, an old favorite

One of the most common 2FA methods involves receiving a one-time verification code via text message. After entering your password, the service sends a unique code to your registered phone number. This method, despite its widespread use, comes with certain vulnerabilities:

  1. Phishing: Cybercriminals often employ sophisticated phishing techniques to trick users into revealing their verification codes. These attacks can be difficult to spot, and users may inadvertently share their codes with malicious actors.
  1. SIM swapping: Hackers can exploit vulnerabilities in cellular networks to gain control of a user’s phone number, allowing them to intercept 2FA codes.
  1. Device dependence: 2FA via text requires users to have their phones on hand, which can be inconvenient if the device is lost or out of battery.

The future is biometric

Biometric liveness verification leverages unique physical characteristics to provide a more advanced and secure authentication process. This method requires users to provide real-time biometric information, such as facial recognition, fingerprints, or voice recognition, to verify their identity. Some of its advantages include:

  1. Higher security: Biometric liveness offers a higher level of security as it relies on unique physical attributes that are difficult to forge or steal.
  1. Real-time authentication: Biometric 2FA ensures that the user is physically present during the authentication process, preventing remote attacks.
  1. Convenience: Users don’t need to remember complex passwords or carry a separate device. Instead, their biometric data becomes the key to their accounts.
  1. Reduced phishing risk: Biometric verification is inherently harder to phish, as it requires a real-time interaction with the user’s unique traits.

While biometric liveness is promising, it isn’t without its challenges. For one thing, storing biometric data in any form raises concerns about user privacy and the potential for misuse or data breaches. Furthermore, biometric systems may have false positives (incorrectly accepting unauthorized users) or false negatives (rejecting authorized users), leading to usability issues. 

It comes down to your needs

Both 2FA via text and biometric liveness have their merits and drawbacks. For organizations and individuals, the choice ultimately depends on their priorities, level of risk tolerance, and the sensitivity of the data being protected. In many cases, a combination of these methods might offer the best of both worlds—the familiarity and simplicity of authentication via text, coupled with the advanced security of biometric liveness.

Authentication methods will continue to evolve alongside technology. The key is to stay informed, adapt to emerging trends, and prioritize security without compromising user experience. Whether it’s the classic text-based approach or the cutting-edge world of biometrics, the goal remains the same: to keep our digital lives safe from prying eyes and malicious actors who wish us harm.

About the post:
Images are generative AI-created. Prompt: two elaborate engraved metal locks resting side by side on a red velvet swatch. Tool: DALL-E.

About the author:
Shane Oren is the CRO for IDVerse. He has over 12 years experience in sales for a range of businesses, from startups to large enterprises, where he has achieved record-breaking results. In his current role, Shane leads the North American office and manages revenue across the market, overseeing sales and customer support teams.

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