Sony token takes on the smart card

The Puppy, shown here without its USB cap, can sign the user on to multiple networks and portals with a single fingerprint'or with a separate print for each.

Puppy fingerprint reader has storage onboard

The smart card, dating to the mid-1980s, and the USB key-chain storage device that appeared around 2002 have converged in the Puppy fingerprint identity token from Sony Electronics Inc.

The Puppy fingerprint reader has been around for more than a year but in a larger, flatter form. Then as now, the Puppy had its own processor and storage on board.

The current USB token format, about 3.5 inches long, stores 64M in flash memory, about 2M of which is reserved for storing up to 10 fingerprints at 564 bytes each, plus digital certificates and private keys. The user can switch the rest of the storage between public files and encrypted private areas.

'You match your print inside the device,' which saves processor cycles on a PC or network, said John B. Harris, Sony's biometrics marketing manager.

The Puppy works with software that follows the international public-key cryptography standards PKCS 11 and 12, as well as Microsoft Corp.'s cryptographic application programming interface. The Data Encryption Standard and Triple DES encrypt the stored files.

The Puppy has a covered silicon print reader as well as a USB interface cover that unsnaps for connecting to a port. Sony, of Park Ridge, N.J., supplies a separate cable for a jiggle-proof connection to a notebook PC.

'It's not a badge replacement,' Harris said. The target user is someone who often carries files back and forth, digitally signs documents, and likes the convenience of logging on to multiple networks and Web portals with a single fingerprint.

Sony sells the token for about $199 with Puppy Suite Personal registration software for Microsoft Windows 2000 and XP. A separate administrator version, as yet unpriced, will allow registration of multiple users and management of certificate levels.

The 62M of storage is cross-platform, Harris said, for access through a USB port on any Windows, Linux or Mac OS X system.

'We see biometrics as private, convenient and secure,' Harris said, 'but it's one layer of the security puzzle.'

If the Puppy key gets lost, no one else can use it, but the owner must revoke all the stored certificates, buy another device and re-register everything.


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