The Fingerprint As Password

R. A. Hettinga rah at
Fri May 21 12:26:15 PDT 2004

There's one born every minute, boys and girls.

We should take bets on when the first digital robbery occurs spoofing the
output of one of these things.




Ten O'Clock Tech
The Fingerprint As Password
Arik Hesseldahl,   05.21.04, 10:00 AM ET

Active Web users have lots of passwords to remember.

 First there's the log-in information just to sign in to a computer. Beyond
that, an increasing number of Web sites that used to let visitors browse
unencumbered are now requiring registration user names and passwords. More
people are doing their banking online as well. And ever more people are
ditching traditional e-mail accounts for Web-based e-mail from Microsoft's
(nasdaq:  MSFT -  news  -  people  ) Hotmail or Yahoo! (nasdaq:  YHOO -
news  -  people  ).

 Password overload is a common problem. Both Microsoft and Apple Computer
(nasdaq:  AAPL -  news  -  people  ) have added new software tools to keep
track of all your passwords, and Web browsers are increasingly likely to
remember them for you as well.

APC's Biometric Password Manager
But whatever happened to biometrics? That's the science behind using a part
of the body, such as a fingerprint or the iris of an eye, to replace a
password. Wasn't biometrics supposed to be the field that would save us all
from the frustrations of faulty password memory?

 If you've been waiting for the right device that will allow you to use a
fingerprint to sign in to your PC and access the many password-protected
Web sites you use, then your time has come. This week we tested a little
device called the Biometric Password Manager from American Power Conversion
(nasdaq:  APCC -  news  -  people  ). This company is better known for its
numerous power products, such as surge protectors, uninterruptible power
sources and the like.

 APC's Password Manager plugs into the USB port of your PC. It sits on the
desktop and whenever a password would be needed, you use a fingerprint to
sign in. Software running on the PC associates the fingerprint with the
user name and password and automatically enters them both and signs in the

 The product more or less worked exactly as described. Installation was
pretty easy. A simple software wizard took us through the process of
scanning the fingerprint, first for practice and then for real. The
software supports up to 20 individual fingerprints, allowing for multiple

 It integrates easily with a browser, too. Aside from the system log-in, we
trained the software to remember the sign-in information for a Yahoo! mail
account. Doing so was a little less clear than was the initial setup and
took a few tries. But once it was set up correctly, the fingerprint signed
us in smoothly and instantaneously to check e-mail.

 The software also allows encryption of files on a PC. Say you've got an
Excel workbook containing data you'd rather people outside your company
didn't see, but which you don't need to refer to very often. You can lock
it up with a password, but after several months that password may be
difficult to remember. The fingerprint system makes that process easy.

 The unit is available for about $50. The software supports Microsoft
Windows, starting with Windows 98, but doesn't support the Mac operating
system. Mac users who want fingerprint security should investigate a
similar device from Sony (nyse:  SNE -  news  -  people  ), called the
Puppy, which we'll test sometime in the future.

 Overall, APC's Biometric Password Manager seems a good value, offering a
relatively simple method to avoid password overload.

R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah at>
The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <>
44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"This Way to the Egress" -- Placard girl in P.T. Barnum's circus

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