Turn your fingerprint into a passkey to Net accounts

Turn your fingerprint into a passkey to Net accounts

By Carlos A. Soto

GCN Staff

The U.are.U Pro fingerprint scanner can log you on not only to your PC, but also to multiple Internet accounts.

The scanner from DigitalPersona Inc. does basic fingerprint authentication and also encrypts your user names and passwords on the hard drive in the Microsoft Windows 9x Registry. Your fingerprint then gets you in anywhere.

The U.areU. fingerprint authentication reader makes Internet log-ins easier and faster, but it doesn't do log-outs.

I tested U.are.U Pro with three e-mail accounts and several work-related Internet accounts. It logged me on within one to five seconds, depending on Internet traffic volume.

The U.are.U Pro software, which took about two minutes to install, manages the optical chip that does the scanning. It takes about a second to scan. Other optical chips I've tried can take up to twice as long, both for the fingerprint scan and for account access. Devices with silicon sensor chips tend to work a little faster than optical ones [GCN, Sept. 11, Page 29].

Once the U.are.U Pro software was installed, I held down the Ctrl key while placing a thumb on the fingerprint reader to initiate the One Touch setup window. Next, I went to the company's Web site, entered my user names and passwords in the One Touch setup window, and dragged the information to the designated spot on the Web page. That was all I had to do to prepare my system to work with the biometric access device.

Unfortunately, U.are.U Pro and most other biometric devices don't log you out the same way you log in. And it would be far better for computer security if biometric devices would automatically lock up or end sessions when they detect an unregistered fingerprint during use.

Box Score

U.are.U Pro

Fingerprint authentication log-on device

DigitalPersona Inc.; Redwood City, Calif.;

tel. 650-261-6070


Price: $150

+ Easy setup and use

+ One-touch Internet access

+ USB connection

' Fingerprint hardware a bit cumbersome

Real-life requirements:

Win9x or NT 4.0 with Service Pack 6, USB port, CD-ROM drive, 64M of RAM, 100M of free storage

I recruited someone else to place an unregistered fingerprint on the U.are.U Pro scanner while I was logged on. An irate message promptly appeared: 'This is Carlos's session!' But it didn't halt the application or log me out automatically'that would be a far more secure approach.

For users with high-security requirements, it would also be nice if the program could trigger an automatic e-mail alert to the administrator, or at least make a log entry somewhere, if the device registers activity by someone other than the logged-on user.

For comfort and better accuracy, I began holding the 2.2-ounce scanner in my hand when I logged on instead of leaving the 2.5- by 2- by 1-inch device on the desk. But it lacked the stability of sturdier fingerprint recognition machines that the GCN Lab has examined.

The Universal Serial Bus connection made up for the instability, however. Most fingerprint devices connect through a serial or a PS/2 mouse port, which is more cumbersome to set up than a USB connection.

If you trust a machine to replace your password with a fingerprint, you might as well give it the authority to log you on to more than just a PC. For $150, you can expect this as well as reliability from U.are.U Pro.


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