Compaq's fingerprint ID device gets a thumbs-up







Thanks to PCs, telephones, e-mail addresses and automated teller machines, I have
accumulated more than two dozen passwords and personal identifiers that I must remember to
prove who I am.


So when Compaq Computer Corp. sent in its Fingerprint Identification Technology
biometric device, I immediately dreamed of freedom from all the tedious password typing.


Compaq’s FIT performed as promised when my fellow GCN Lab reviewers, Jason Byrne
and John Breeden, took my dare to try to access my accounts.


I plugged the $99 device into a Compaq ProLiant 5000 server port and set it up. FIT
integrated well with Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0. I initially supplied a password to
validate my thumbprint. Thereafter, my thumb logged me on.


For test purposes, I carefully logged on without leaving residual skin oils on the
FIT’s small screen. My fellow reviewers tried to pick up the latent print using
everything from fingerprint dust to latex gloves and even Silly Putty.


They failed. Short of cutting off my thumb or holding a gun on me, they could not foil
FIT.


FIT examines what are called fingerprint minutiae—the contours and points unique
to each fingerprint. FIT stores the minutiae-point pattern in an NT database in the same
place as authentication passwords.


There’s no need to press Ctrl-Alt-Del to log in. FIT reads the fingerprint on its
scanner and logs in the user in less than a second. I chose to use my thumb, but any
finger would do.


Besides NT, FIT also works under Windows 95 OSR2 or later releases, but not Windows 98.
The client must log into a primary domain controller server running Windows NT 4.0 with
Service Pack 3 installed. FIT also works on non-Microsoft clients and servers.


If you accidentally slice or burn your finger, you’ll have to bypass FIT with a
password. Otherwise, this handy product alleviates all the worry of having to remember
passwords. 

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