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Bobby Varma Jun 30, 2021 12:49:16 PM 5 min read

Data Centers Are Increasingly Hard to Secure; Biometrics Can Make the Job Much Easier

The worlds of physical and cybersecurity have been on a collision course for some time. Networked cameras, card readers, and other security technologies can serve as attack surfaces for cyber threats and data breaches, impacting operational issues far beyond physical security. Conversely, cyberattacks initiated from anywhere within the network can infiltrate and compromise the technology intended to protect our physical safety. Securing data centers represents the epitome of these converging challenges.

Not long ago, CIOs held corporate data centers under tight control. The electronic resources critical to an organization's operations – its corporate servers, storage, routers, switches, and the heart of its network infrastructure – were buried deep inside office buildings or located in their own separate structures, accessible to very few individuals.

Within the past decade, that model has ceased to exist. A proliferation of turn-key cloud solutions and mobile apps, combined with a tech-savvy generation of workers capable of putting systems in place without the guidance of their IT departments, established a new way of running businesses. As a result, the hub and spoke architecture that kept data centers neatly contained and managed has morphed into a mesh-like environment, where corporate networks connect with a wide array of software and servers. Covid-19 brought further decentralization, with an unprecedented number of workers logging in from home. Now, every home computer and router connecting to the corporate network could be considered a small data center. No surprise – securing today's re-envisioned corporate data centers and networks, which includes their many nodes and shifting boundaries, has become exponentially more complicated.

Biometrics offers an ideal tool for addressing this multi-faceted challenge. "Identity" is at the core of creating secure access to data center resources. Biometrics are the consummate "identifiers," physical markers unique to each individual. What could make more sense?

Furthermore, the iris is an ideal biometric modality. It is stable, touchless, easily accessible, and presents a false match in less than one in one million instances. To identify oneself with his or her iris, all that's required is a glance at a specialized reader. In addition, the iris preserves user privacy. Unlike a face, humans cannot visually match its signature to an individual. The only solutions more secure than iris are multimodal – like a combination of iris and face or iris and fingerprint. Any of these options are suitable for the high-stakes nature of data center security applications.

Biometric identity solutions are easily integrated with both physical access control and logical access systems, providing a unified, standardized platform that’s easy to manage. A centralized cloud database contains the identities of all employees across multi-site enterprise organizations, including those working remotely.

Permissions can be assigned through integrated access control systems to regulate who may enter restricted areas of any buildings, without fobs, cards, or mobile credentials. To pass through locked doorways, authorized employees need only their irises, or face and irises, which are always with them and cannot be shared or stolen. Event logs of entries and exits are 100% accurate.

IT departments can leverage the same biometric database to maintain zero trust protocols. In fact, biometrics are so reliable at verifying identities, and so convenient to use, that personnel who maintain sensitive network infrastructure are no longer limited to working exclusively onsite. Working remotely can be just as secure. By using their computer's embedded camera or attaching an encrypted biometric reader, remote staff can seamlessly verify and authenticate their identity with every action they take. As they sit at their keyboard, the reader automatically does all the work. Furthermore, if someone were to take their place or join them within view of their computer screen, the reader would sense the unauthorized presence, immediately shutting down the computer or closing the application.

Leveraging biometrics to institute zero trust protocols isn't limited to high-security personnel. The same automated authentication procedures can be applied to any remote employees who access network resources, thereby securing the "miniature data centers" located in homes or satellite locations. After all, data centers are only as secure as their weakest link. Biometrics easily secure each and every gateway.

The past decade has seen a profound change in the way we think about data centers. Our networks, as well as the people who manage them, demand greater flexibility and mobility. At the same time, the dangers posed by poorly secured data centers have never been more serious and wide-ranging. Biometric identity solutions offer an easy-to-implement, highly effective, and surprisingly affordable mechanism for addressing both the physical and logical security challenges presented by this new paradigm.

Bobby Varma

Bobby Varma is the CEO of Princeton Identity.