Pentagon tries fingerprint sign-on

About 1,300 Pentagon employees are using U.are.U Pro fingerprint recognition systems from DigitalPersona Inc. of Redwood City, Calif., in a pilot that the Defense Department CIO's office began late last year.

"We coupled the client rollout with an upgrade to workstation software images" including Microsoft Active Directory, said Jim Ward, president and CEO of EyeIT.com of Alexandria, Va., which has managed the pilot for the past three months.

"The users got one-touch sign-ons to eight applications" such as accounting and other legacy programs, Ward said today at FOSE 2004 in Washington. The fingerprint authentication also automates sign-ons for the users' Common Access Cards, which incorporate digital certificates for signing documents and e-mail.

The pilot users are "senior DOD individuals, not all in IT," although most of them work for the CIO, Ward said, and their feedback has been positive. He said help desk calls related to passwords have dropped by about 90 percent, but there has been a 0.05 percent increase in calls related to the biometric sign-ons.

Microsoft Corp. is adopting DigitalPersona's software for future products and recommending it for Active Directory deployments, senior technical specialist Todd Gagorik said.

"Active Directory users constantly run up against managing passwords," he said. "DigitalPersona can replace a Windows log-on and extend to metadirectories" for directory management in non-Windows environments.

DigitalPersona Pro 3.0, which company vice president Harvey Bondar announced today at the trade show, lists for $149 with fingerprint reader and client software.

Administrators can set rules for totally automating passwords if they wish, Bondar said. End users sign on with one fingerprint, and the software automatically generates a random password for each application to which they have rights, freeing the users as well as help desks from password management chores.

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