The lowdown on biometrics

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Digital security

What are biometrics? According to Jeffrey S. Dunn, chairman of the Biometrics Consortium, 'Biometrics are automated methods of recognizing a person based on a physiological or behavioral characteristic. Examples of human traits used for biometric recognition include fingerprints, speech, face, retina, iris, handwritten signature, hand geometry and wrist veins. During enrollment, a sample of the biometric trait is taken, processed by a computer and stored for later comparison.'

What kinds of access can be verified by biometrics? Biometric access devices are used both to verify access to computers and data networks as well as to buildings and installations. They are also often used in connection with financial transactions and benefits and to combat fraud. The Defense Manpower Data Center's suspicions that benefits were still being collected on deceased retirees was confirmed when many failed to appear to enroll their fingerprints in the new identification system.

What are the most common biometric devices for access control? The most prevalent are fingerprint scanners, although facial and iris scanners and voice recognition systems are on their way to the market.

Where can I learn more about biometrics and biometric devices? Web sites including the Biometrics Consortium, at www.biometrics. org, and the Biometrics Management Office, www.c3i.osd.mil/biometrics. Also, the Biometrics Consortium Conference will be held Sept. 23-25 in Arlington, Va., at www.itl.nist.gov/div895/isis/bc/bc2002/home.htm.

Must-know info? Biometrics will likely become pervasive in government over the next decade. According to the Defense Department's newly created Biometrics Management Office, 'By 2012, biometrics will be the universally empowering technology that ensures the right person with the right privileges has access at the right time to support war fighting dominance.'

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