inherence factor

The inherence factor, in a security context, is a category of user authentication credentials consisting of elements that are integral to the individual in question, in the form of biometric data.

In information technology, biometrics refers to technologies that measure and analyze human body characteristics, such as DNA, fingerprints, eye retinas and irises, voice patterns, facial patterns and hand measurements, for authentication purposes.

One of the three main categories of authentication factors, inherence is sometimes characterized as something the user is. The other two categories are knowledge (something the user knows) and possession (something the user has).

Biometric authentication examples:
For single factor authentication (SFA), a user might, for example, submit themselves to a retinal scan for access to a secure facility. Biometric data from the scan would then be compared with a confirmed stored sample.

For two-factor authentication (2FA), a user might enter a username and password to unlock a multi-user computer and then provide a finger scan to open protected files.

Three-factor authentication (3FA) involves elements of each main category of authentication factors. A user might enter a personal identification number (PIN) to unlock a smartphone, input a one-time password (OTP) generated by a soft token application and then provide an iris scan for added security.

Multifactor authentication (MFA) significantly increases the security of logins, with each additional factor making it less likely that an unauthorized individual could masquerade as a legitimate user.

This was last updated in December 2014

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