Microsoft launches biometric access peripherals

The software giant has admitted the products are for convenience and not security

Microsoft has reacted to concerns over passwords with the launch of a keyboard which uses biometrics to log on users to Web sites.

The keyboard includes a fingerprint reader which will enable users to store their biometric ID and use that as authentication when logging onto password protected sites — having stored the passwords locally on the device.

Microsoft claims the Optical Desktop Elite with Fingerprint Reader for Bluetooth "offers the nation's PC users a way of managing their passwords without having to remember them".

But the issue of security is one Microsoft, perhaps jaded by past criticism, neatly avoids.

The emphasis of the Microsoft product range which also includes a mouse is very much on convenience, rather than security.

The product manual even states: "The fingerprint reader is not a security feature."

The company also advises against users storing passwords which are still highly sensitive, such as those used for banking.

Mike Haigh, hardware product marketing manager Microsoft UK, said: “We introduced our fingerprint reader products to offer a new level of convenience to the majority of PC users who are really frustrated with trying to remember their user name and passwords."

For all the notes of caution, some anti-fraud experts extol the virtues of biometrics.

Peter Dorrington, director of fraud solutions at SAS, told ZDNet UK sister site silicon.com: "You always have your biometrics with you and they are far more reliable than passwords which can be found out or socially engineered out of you."