Zero Trust Security: What Are the Benefits of Biometric Authentication?

Written by Kelsey Kinzer on May 9, 2022

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Companies across the globe have never faced the kind of cybersecurity challenges they do today. The world has rapidly advanced from the time when mere password-based authentication could be considered a viable security policy. In this day and age, passwords are no longer enough.

This is partly due to the way technology has advanced over the years. While the transition to cloud computing has certainly provided businesses with agility and flexibility, it has also raised the cybersecurity stakes. Organizations must also contend with an increasingly remote workforce and a shift toward bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies. 

All of these layers make it vital for there to be access control systems in place that are able to accurately identify individuals. That’s precisely why the Zero Trust security model has become a crucial component of modern cybersecurity guidance. When combined with biometric technology, this creates a highly secure baseline for protection against cybersecurity threats. 

What Is Zero Trust in Cybersecurity?

Think of Zero Trust as the foundation of all conditional access policies. These policies are put in place to prevent access until the user is able to meet one or more conditions. As such, conditional access policies supplement the existing IT security infrastructure by significantly improving the level of protection with minimal disruption.

There’s a simple assumption at the heart of the Zero Trust model: Trust nothing and verify everything. All devices, networks, users, and additional resources are untrusted. Nothing is taken at face value. All sign-in attempts are required to meet specific conditions before access can be granted. This “default deny” security posture makes for a highly secure access control system.

The Zero Trust model goes far beyond protecting just the conventional network perimeter. It’s microsegmented, as the perimeters to be granted access are clearly defined for all assets that need to be protected. This is imperative in blocking the lateral movement of threats throughout the network.

How Zero Trust Principles Help Organizations Adapt to a Remote Workforce

The global shift to remote work means that organizations must now be extra mindful of a rapidly evolving threat landscape, and deal with the additional complexity of untrusted networks and unknown locations from where login attempts are made. 

Combine these factors with a sustained rise in devastating cyberattacks against organizations in almost all industries and you have a serious operational challenge on your hands, the kind that gives IT departments a lot of sleepless nights. For many IT admins, their Zero Trust security architecture is what helps them get through the night.

The Zero Trust security posture follows these core principles:

Network Trust

This requires that authentication requests must originate from a recognized network. However, trusted networks become hard to enforce when relying on a distributed workforce. In that case, organizations may seek to enforce whitelisted IPs within a range of addresses. Access will be denied if the request originates from an IP not on the list.

Device Trust

The security offered by on-site equipment is left behind to support remote workers. Organizations are also increasingly relying on BYOD policies. To ensure that users’ personal devices are not the weakest link, organizations may require personal devices to be approved through certificate-based management.

Identity Trust

This allows for granular access control based on role, group, and identity. It makes it impossible for users in a certain role or group to access resources that are not assigned to that particular role or group. This limits the possibility of phishing attacks causing significant damage even if remote workers have their credentials compromised.

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) acts as an additional layer of security above these principles. It can be combined with them to provide a secondary challenge, such as one relying on biometric technology, to login attempts that meet the specific conditions. 

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Wondering what stage of Zero Trust your organization is in?

Multi-Factor Authentication and Biometric Technology

MFA is a critical component of Zero Trust, as it requires proof of the identity of the user before access can be granted. The user is required to provide something they know, i.e., a password, and something they have in their possession or inherently, i.e., a fingerprint.

There are a variety of methods for enforcing MFA. Users may be required to provide a one-time password sent to them via email/text or generated through an app-based passcode generator. The MFA challenge can also rely on the approval of a push notification sent to a registered device. Hardware keys are another way of enforcing multi-factor authentication. 

There’s one method that’s consistently regarded as one of the most secure methods of MFA, used by top organizations and even law enforcement. It relies on biometric information. There are countless benefits of biometric authentication for MFA implementations. 

By integrating any of the various types of biometrics into an identification system, organizations can achieve full confidence in identity validation. One of the biggest benefits of biometric technology is that this data is very difficult to replicate. 

It’s an inherently more secure method since biometric identifiers are unique to every user. For example, if the MFA challenge requires the user to provide a fingerprint scan, it’s not something that can be easily guessed, phished, or duplicated. 

While advanced tools do exist that may allow bad actors to circumvent biometric security controls, the vast majority do not have access to them. Biometric technology is proven to be an extremely reliable method of enforcing MFA. It’s also more user friendly than other forms of multi-factor authentication.

In summary, compared to other types of MFA factors, the benefits of using biometric information are numerous:

  • It is tied to one particular user
  • It can’t be lost or forgotten
  • It can’t be phished or stolen using social engineering
  • It makes authentication easy for end users

That’s precisely why many organizations deem biometric technology to be the strongest method for access control, and why the future of biometrics is bright.

What Are Examples of Biometric Technology?

Fingerprint Recognition

The user is required to provide a scan of the fingerprint that’s associated with their identity. Integrated fingerprint scanners are now commonly found in notebooks and smartphones. 

Facial Recognition

Using cameras, the user’s face is scanned and matched with the data associated with their profile. This is also possible using conventional notebooks and smartphones.

Voice Recognition

Certain phrases may be required to be spoken for access to be granted, with the voice sample matched against one that was provided when the profile was set up. 

Behavioral Biometrics

It relies on specialized peripherals to identify unique and measurable patterns in behaviors, such as how strongly the user presses the keys on their keyboard.

Iris Scans

Possible using retina scanners, access will not be granted until the user provides a retina scan that matches the sample stored against their identity.

Using JumpCloud to Implement Biometric MFA

To take full advantage of the benefits of biometric authentication, consider implementing biometric MFA with JumpCloud. Organizations can maximize their investment in cybersecurity by relying on our cloud directory platform for identity, access, and device management, as well as our seamlessly integrated authenticator app, JumpCloud Protect™. 

With JumpCloud Protect in place, IT admins can bolster the security of frictionless push notification MFA by adding an additional biometric factor requirement to verify a user’s identity. The types of biometric authentication supported include fingerprint recognition and facial recognition technology for iOS and Android devices. 
Learn more about using biometrics to secure multiple IT endpoints, including cloud applications, devices, and RADIUS authentication with JumpCloud MFA.

Kelsey Kinzer

Kelsey is a passionate storyteller and Content Writer at JumpCloud. She is particularly inspired by the people who drive innovation in B2B tech. When away from her screen, you can find her climbing mountains and (unsuccessfully) trying to quit cold brew coffee.

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