Get ready for biometric security in the workplace, finds new survey

UK companies are anticipating the introduction of biometric technology to increase workplace security, according to a new independent survey commissioned as part of the Hitachi Data Systems Storage Index. The survey finds that 65 per cent of firms expect to see iris scanning and fingerprint recognition systems in the office, with 44 per cent expecting to see them introduced within two years.

The survey comes amid growing adoption of biometric technology by border control and public sector organisations and reveals that over half of companies (54 per cent) believe that the use of biometrics in office buildings is a justified security measure, although the same number anticipate some staff or customer resistance to the technology. Few respondents (28 per cent) thought that Big Brother style abuse of biometric information was likely either by companies or government agencies.

It seems that attitudes towards biometrics are rapidly improving as the technology becomes more common and people recognise the growing security benefits, says Tony Reid, Director of Storage Solutions, Hitachi Data Systems EMEA. Of course, companies will still need to comply with various privacy and data protection regulations that govern how long personal information can be stored and what it can be used for which presents a further IT challenge for many.

Only five per cent of the IT directors questioned for the research think that biometrics will be in use within the next six months. Concerns over possible technical malfunctions and data security breeches suggest that most deployments will be delayed while new IT systems are developed to protect against such risks. Over half of those polled (58 per cent) cited the risk of crimes such as electronic ID theft as a cause of concern for organisations using and storing biometric information. An even higher number 61 per cent felt that technical malfunctions, such as staff being accidentally locked out of buildings, could be a potential problem area.

One of the biggest hurdles to faster adoption of biometrics is ensuring that biometric data is stored securely and efficiently, whilst also ensuring that the system can carry on functioning properly in the event of any part of the IT network going down. This requires companies to put in place effective business continuity processes and to invest in technologies such as remote replication and data backup, automated data management and data encryption, explains Tony Reid.

Hitachi Data Systems study also found that the use of biometrics is widely supported for a range of government and financial applications. In particular, over 80 per cent or respondents agreed that it was justified for border control (88 per cent) and government building security (82 per cent), whilst 93 per cent said it was warranted within the security services. Almost three out of four IT directors backed the use of biometrics for credit card validation (74 per cent) and ID cards, including driving licences and proof-of-age cards (70 per cent). 67 per cent supported the application of the technology in administering welfare payments.

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