Biometric authentication is increasingly replacing traditional passwords and PINs as the way we protect access to our devices and data. According to Strategy Analytics, in the next four years, we will see rapid adoption of these technologies that scan our fingerprints, eyes, face and voice.

Biometrics all work on the same principle: getting users to verify their identity using unique personal characteristics. But which approach to biometric authentication is the most secure?

On Samsung’s latest smartphones, including the new Galaxy S9 and S9+, users can choose from facial recognition, fingerprint or iris scanning to unlock their device. There is also a new feature on the Galaxy S9 called Intelligent Scan, where the device automatically selects the method of unlock based on environmental conditions.

Here is a quick rundown of the options and how secure they are:

Facial Recognition

Fast, easy and convenient, facial recognition is a great option for consumers and many business users. However, security-conscious organizations handling sensitive data should consider iris or fingerprint for greater security.


The first biometric authentication method to appear on mainstream smartphones, fingerprint scanning is fast and offers low false-acceptance rates. It’s a good choice for enterprise users, as long as you are not wearing gloves (as many field-based workers do). There have also been reports of hackers duplicating a person’s prints to break into devices, although fingerprint sensor technology is becoming increasingly advanced.

Iris Scanning

Iris scanning is available on the Galaxy S8, Galaxy Note8 and the new Galaxy S9. It offers the highest level of security and allows users to “unlock with a look.”

Your iris is an extremely data-rich physical structure and contains a pattern that’s unique to each individual and virtually impossible to replicate. Additionally, because eyes are self-cleaning and image capture is performed without physical contact with the reader, readings are more accurate and reliable.

The latest Samsung smartphones have dedicated infrared cameras just for capturing an image of your iris. The camera is directly connected to a secure area within the smartphone called TrustZone, which is isolated from other parts of the system and is secured by Samsung’s defense-grade security platform, Knox. This ensures that from the second the data is captured, it never leaves this secure environment.

Intelligent Scan

With this feature activated, the Galaxy S9 will select either facial recognition or iris scanning depending on environmental conditions. One challenge with iris scanning has been use in bright sunlight. In those conditions, Intelligent Scan will instead utilize facial recognition to verify the user. Conversely, in dim lighting, facial recognition doesn’t work as well, so the phone utilizes the infrared iris scanner instead. This makes Intelligent Scan a very convenient way to unlock your device. However, it should only be used by individuals or businesses comfortable with the level of security afforded by facial recognition technology.

Securing Data With Samsung Pass

Unlocking your device with your iris or fingerprint is just the beginning of leveraging biometrics. Biometrics can also be used to replace account passwords or authenticate to data separation solutions.

That’s why Samsung Pass was developed. It offers users a convenient way to leverage their biometrics to replace all their passwords while browsing the web using Samsung Internet.

Download our white paper on how biometric authentication can secure your business, employees and customers from security threats.