Biometric Security

As corporations realize that passwords, the conventional security mechanism, are difficult and expensive to maintain, demand for biometrics is increasing.

To have a truly secure password requires regular maintenance, so the password, ideally a random collection of letters, numbers, and symbols, changes frequently. How many of us have seen a Post-It Note tacked to a monitor with the user's password? Not a very secure method of password storage! Without guidelines, users typically choose easy-to-guess passwords such as birthdays, or the ubiquitous "password." Changing passwords on a regular basis can become confusing and time consuming.

For a solution, companies are turning to biometrics. Put simply, this is a big word for using biological data such as fingerprints or retinal scans in place of a password. Users no longer need to remember passwords, they just need to have their thumb with them (hopefully not too difficult!).

On June 30, 2000, support for biometrics took a leap forward as the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act became law. Microsoft has also announced that Windows XP will support biometrics when it is released later this year. One example is the series of peripherals from Ethentica, which provide fingerprint identification using a USB or PC Card device. Retailing between $130 and $195 depending on the model, these
devices will use a fingerprint password for screen savers, online accounts, Internet connections, network logins, and more.

Biometric technology is poised to revolutionize computer security in the coming decade.

May 2001

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