Frontex Study Finds DNA Biometrics Least Vulnerable to Attack

Millions of travelers cross the European Union’s (EU) external borders every year and their numbers will likely increase even further. Border checks will need to undergo significant transformations in the coming years, both to effectively safeguard the EU’s external borders and to improve the border crossing experience for travelers. Biometrics is one of the fields expected to significantly contribute to the attainment of these goals. In light of this, the European border and coast guard agency, Frontex, has published the results of its Technology Foresight on Biometrics for the Future of Travel.

The publication is the outcome of a nine-month intensive project conducted in 2021, which aimed at studying the future of biometrics for its implementation in border check systems that may benefit the work of the European Border and Coast Guard (EBCG) community in both short and longer term.

Frontex identified and studied in detail the following biometric technologies with the strongest potential to influence the future strategic development of Integrated Border Management:

  • Contactless friction ridge (including fingerprint) recognition 
  • Infrared face recognition 
  • Iris recognition in the NIR spectrum 
  • Iris recognition in the visible spectrum 

Security analysis helped filter various types of biometric technologies, focusing on their comparative inherent vulnerability to adversary attacks. Only attacks at user-level (presentation attacks) and morphing attacks (in the case of face recognition) were considered. The lowest level of vulnerability was assigned to DNA biometrics, which Frontex says is “far from seamless and highly intrusive” at least at the current level of technological development. It is however highly secure. In terms of security, DNA biometrics is closely followed by infrared face recognition and eye vein recognition, which display relatively low vulnerability to adversary attacks. At the other end of the scale is 2D face recognition in the visible spectrum, which Frontex says is “intrinsically highly vulnerable” to presentation attacks (such as artefacts and make-up) and morphing attacks, but has a remarkably high level of social acceptance and a more simple acquisition process than DNA biometrics. 

The research, conducted under the auspices of the EU Innovation Hub for Internal Security, was supported by the European Commission’s DG HOME, JRC, FRA, eu-LISA, Europol,  Member States’ border management authorities, Interpol, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the International Civil Aviation Organization, three EU-funded projects (D4FLY, eBORDER and iMARS), the European Association for Biometrics as well as industries, universities, and research and technology organizations across Europe. 

Read the full publication at Frontex

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