Biometric security systems offer a new level of hackproofing over traditional
password checking. We've seen advanced systems like retina-scanners in the movies,
but here is a real fingerprint-recognition system that any company can deploy.
A company called Digital Persona has launched a cute little USB hardware device called U.are.U
that secures Windows and limits access for different users. The standard low--security
login screen of Windows 95/98/2000 is now replaced with a new system that responds to fingerprints. If your
thumb impression fits that of an authorized user who had previously been registered with the
software, you will be granted specific predefined access privileges.
The system is smart enough to recognise prints even if your finger is upside-down, or if
the glass surface is smudged.
U.are.U secures access to the system during login, as well as during exits from screensaver mode. It is
rated for 1 in 10,000 false acceptance rate, high enough to qualify for medium security
scenarios if used alone. In emergency situations where the recognition system fails to recognise
you, a fallback password can be used.
Sadly, the product's usability ends here. No other software is bundled with the package to take advantage
of the fingerprint recognition capability. Although slated for home use, we find the price of Deluxe version at
US$149 too high for just adding an extra level of security (also achievable via cheaper software alternatives) and making logins more convenient.
As a corporate tool, however, the U.are.U (Pro version, US$1,499) has some potential, if you have an IT team that can take develop in-house applications with an optional dll-based software development kit (about US$700).