NSA uses iris readers to ID network users

NSA uses iris readers to ID network users

By Dawn S. Onley

GCN Staff

MARCH 21—Somewhere in the National Security Agency are miniature desktop cameras that study the irises of NSA workers before they're given access to secure networks.

Each Authenticam, from Iridian Technologies Inc. of Moorestown, N.J., reads the unique patterns in an iris with a glance from up to 19 inches away before permitting a user to access a system, said David Johnston, Iridian's vice president of marketing. He spoke with GCN today at the FOSE 2001 conference in Washington.

'I know there's been a lot of interest in iris technology for the Defense Department,' Johnston said. Authenticam is 99.9 percent accurate, more accurate than fingerprinting, passwords or tokens, he said.

Passwords are easily lost or stolen and pricey to manage, and fingerprinting is not practical for warfighters in the field whose prints might become smudged by dirt or other substances, he said.

Exactly who uses the technology at NSA and other specifics of the contract cannot be divulged because of the security strictures at the Defense agency, Johnson said. An NSA spokesman, however, confirmed that his agency uses iris scanning technology and other biometric devices.

Iridian is also working with systems integrators to incorporate iris technology into the General Services Administration's governmentwide Smart Access Common ID Program.

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