Ruby On Rails—commonly shortened to just Rails, is a powerful cross-platform software framework used widely for developing web applications. Could it also be a suitable platform for implementing various forms of biometric authentication?
As biometrics become more and more ubiquitous for verifying user identities as time goes on, it becomes an ever more important step to integrate such forms of authentication into web-based products.
Today we’re going to explore the feasibility of utilizing Rails for biometric authentication, along with a few additional considerations to keep in mind when taking on the task of doing so.
A Few Notes On Biometric Authentication
To properly explore this idea, we’ll first need to lay out what we mean by “biometric authentication.” In short, biometric authentication refers to a user identification/verification process that relies on biological input (the use of some part of the human body). This differs from both knowledge-based authentication (e.g. when a user must input a password or similar piece of information to access a system) and property-based authentication (e.g. when a user must rely on a keycard or other object to gain access).
General Advantages Of Biometric Authentication
While it comes with some drawbacks, the advantages of using biometric authentication are still numerous. For starters, biometric authentication is considered one of the most effective forms of authentication currently available. This is because of the biological component. Unique, identifying physical features make them difficult to spoof, and the technology involved in authentication—fingerprint scanners, facial recognition, and the like—are highly accurate.
A few examples of biometric markers would include the aforementioned fingerprints and complete face, but might also include the human eye, voice, or even hand geometry. Each individual method of biometric authentication comes with its own set of unique advantages and disadvantages (some eye scanners, for example, can be fooled by high-quality photographs of a user’s face/eyes).
On the whole, though, these forms of biometric authentication are lauded, and being incorporated in more and more pieces of technology. From hardware like smartphones and laptops to software such as web applications and services, the demand for biometrics has increased in recent years and will likely continue to do so as the means of implementing such means of authentication become even more affordable and reliable on a broad scale.
Biometrics & Web Services
The benefit of using such technology for web services is evident. The quality and reliability of web products are enhanced when they are coupled with high degrees of information security, which is exactly what biometric authentication provides. By ensuring the users of web services are who they claim to be, personal data is protected and risks involved with the theft or abuse of said data are lessened.
Biometrics increase security by making it more difficult for potential intruders to gather the information they need to bypass safeguards. To have any hope of collecting biometric data from a target, they need to be within physical proximity, putting them at a greater risk of being discovered. If a biometric system is bypassed, the pool of potential suspects is limited to those who have personal access to the user, making the process of narrowing them down much easier.
Beyond the enhanced level of security, though, biometric authentication systems promote a greater ease of use for those utilizing a web-based platform. Just like fingerprint scanners and facial recognition on smartphones allow owners to swiftly and securely access their devices, the same principle can apply to using web applications. Instead of lengthy (and perhaps forgettable) passwords, users can rely on their biology to gain access to the systems and services they desire.
Alternatively, it can be used as a supplementary authentication factor as opposed to being the only one. In addition to a password or some similar knowledge-based piece of authentication, end users might also input their biometric info as an additional layer of security, making it even more difficult to an intruder to scam their way into a system.
Where Ruby On Rails Comes Into Play
So, how does Ruby On Rails fit into this picture? Biometric recognition functionality has the be melded into a web application for it to provide the desired security benefits. Perhaps, for example, you want to implement some sort of facial recognition via webcam, or fingerprint scanning capability, or a combination of biometric systems to allow users access to your online platform. You’ll need to create code that allows for said integration to occur. Rails is a framework that provides one such option for developing the code required for this task.
Taking the fingerprint scanning example a bit further, Rails can be used to create a system wherein end-users can register their fingerprint information via a fingerprint reader, then have that on file to access a specific web application. Through the internet, the end-users biometric input is read by an identification/authentication server, which has access to the database of registered users. If they’re “on the list,” so to speak, they are then authorized and can carry on with whatever business they intended to do.
This might be an authorization system of some sort, but could also be used in transaction systems (web platforms where users want to access monetary accounts), points-of-sale (where they may go online to purchase goods) or even time and attendance systems (logging when and where they are working). The uses for biometric authentication aren’t strictly limited to these options, mind you, but they are some of the most prevalent examples and provide solid examples of how this sort of authentication is most commonly used.
The form of biometric input needn’t be limited to simply fingerprints either. As mentioned, it might also take the form of facial recognition, voice recognition, performing a biometric analysis of a user’s keyboard input, etc. As Rails is a popular framework for web development, particularly in instances where more complexity is required. It’s speed, modularity (it’s possible to integrate various 3rd-party solutions), and ability to allow for the addition of features to web applications (such as biometric authentication) make it a suitable choice for those wishing to include this type of authentication into their web products.
Challenges To Consider
Just because something is possible, doesn’t mean it’s a simple feat for just anyone to achieve. There are a few complexities to bear in mind when trying to implement biometric authentication via web applications.
Namely, finding a solution that will properly interface with the myriad biometric readers, scanners, and other peripherals used to capture biometric input. Additional concerns might be ensuring that such inputs (and the database in which end-users’ data is stored) are kept secure, among several others.
If you aren’t experienced in developing Ruby On Rails apps, working with programmers who are will be paramount to tackling the challenge of using it to add biometric authentication to the web services that you envision. COAX has been working with Rails for years, and our developers are well-suited to the challenges that come with creating code.
Beyond that, though, we’re skilled with every phase of the development process and can assist with testing solutions to ensure they work as intended, along with maintaining them post-launch to patch defects and heighten their functionality.
Adding biometric authentication to your web services is an excellent step towards increasing their security and promoting greater ease for your end users. We’re available to help support you in achieving that goal.
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