Fusion center asks: 'Does it work?'

As each new generation of biometric authentication products arrives at the Defense Department's Biometrics Fusion Center in Bridgeport, W.Va., director Samuel Cava says the primary question to answer is, 'Does it work?'

Sometimes it just doesn't. Other times, there are 'basic functionality problems,' he said, such as a USB memory stick to which a vendor had added a fingerprint sensor to deny unauthorized use.

'It looked like an ordinary USB key chain drive, so the tester tried to pull off the cover, and the sensor came off,' Cava said.

'We need to do more controlled environmental testing,' he said. 'We'll shortly be moving into a new facility,' also in West Virginia, to stress-test biometric devices in dusty, sandy, hot and electrostatically charged conditions. The center in the future will do statistical modeling of devices' accuracy as well as vulnerability testing of sensors' algorithmic software.

The center currently is testing biometric log-ins to classified networks, fingerprint products for logical rather than physical access, and portable fingerprinting systems for suspected criminals or terrorists.

Gradually the center is building up a knowledge base of biometric information to help vendors build products that work. 'Standardization and interoperability across the department are our key priorities, Cava said.

A new testing-and-evaluation biometrics working group will begin meeting on April 15 and 16, Cava said. For more information, visit the knowledge base.

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