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Professor says iris recognition gives smartphone users more options to protect devices


Stephanie Schuckers, a Clarkson University professor in engineering science and director for the Center for Identification Technology Research (CITeR), said she doesn’t “think it’s unreasonable to expect that we’ll see devices with iris recognition technology in the U.S. in the near future”.

According to Schuckers, the near-infrared lights that iris recognition systems use to analyze the pattern of the muscles in the iris are used in many other technologies, including security systems.

And while iris recognition technology has improved over the past couple of decades, Schuckers said the reliability of the biometric depends on the system itself as well as the software. She added, “the nice thing about iris recognition is you don’t have to touch something,”

“Iris recognition is very high quality like a fingerprint, but no biometric–an iris or a fingerprint-is perfect,” said Schuckers.

Some iris recognition systems are susceptible to being spoofed by printed photos of eyes or patterned contact lenses, while other systems are programmed to protect against these spoofs.

“There is going to be a range of how well the system is implemented, and the thing about software is that you don’t know how well it’s functioning under the hood,” said Schuckers, urging smartphone users to be cautious of apps and other devices that claim to provide iris recognition.

Schuckers is currently working with other CITeR researchers to develop new methods to protect against biometric spoofing. The organization is funding a competition, the Liveness Detection (LivDet) Competition Series, which asks researchers to provide algorithms that differentiate between data from real and fake irises.

“We’re studying those vulnerabilities and ways to mitigate those vulnerabilities,” she said. “We’re trying to recognize when people are faking a biometric device.”

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