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Social Innovation

First line of defence – fingerprint or fingervein?

It’s time to take data protection back into our own hands, but which part should we use?

Cybercrime is on the rise and shows no signs of abating.

As technology becomes more advanced, so do cyber criminals.

Passcodes and passwords are no longer strong enough to protect our sensitive information – particularly as we often make simple passwords, replicate them for convenience, and write them down in obvious places. Those who do use different passwords face having to remember an estimated 25 to 150 different combinations. So how can we protect our information in a safe and convenient way?

Biometric technology could hold the answer, both protecting our personal details and saving us from needing to remember countless, complex passcodes. When our bodies act as our authentication token, it becomes much harder to steal and replicate our unique characteristics.

However, different forms of biometric technology are more secure than others. For example, although they focus on the same area of the body, fingerprint scanning and fingervein authentication are very different methods of biometric authentication. While fingerprint technology maps the external surface of your finger to detect the ridges, fingervein technology scans through your finger with near-infrared-red light to detect the haemoglobin moving in your veins.

Here we look at why this makes fingervein more effective than traditional fingerprints:

  • Despite its reputation, the accuracy of many types of fingerprint scanner is questionable
  • Fingerprints can be faked without too much difficulty as they are an external feature
  • Being located on the skin’s surface, fingerprint quality changes over time (and can be affected by manual labour and weather conditions)
  • Physical contact with a scanner is required for fingerprint authentication ?fingervein can be contactless.
  • Liveness aspect ? Fingervein scanning requires that blood is flowing in the veins.


Forensic advantage

Will always have a role to play in forensic identification.

Efficient identification process

Has recognised standards and national databases making it efficient for 1-to-many identification.

Leaves a trace

Fingerprints are left behind, creating a risk of identity theft.

Already integrated

Technology is commonly used as an identification method across the world.

Historical record

Security services hold records of fingerprints, making historical identification possible.

Finger vein

Liveness requirement

Scanning requires blood to be flowing in the veins.

Highly accurate

Generally more accurate than fingerprint.

More durable

Not affected by ageing, weather or manual labour.

Leaves no trace

Does not require the subject to touch a scanning surface. Non-traceable biometrics mean that it’s not possible to steal a person’s identity.

No need for integration

Camera phone tech allows standard cameras on PCs, smartphones and tablets to be used.

Can’t be copied

Because veins are inside the body, it’s difficult to capture or copy without specialist equipment.