A touch of security

Test Drive | Iogear's biometric mouse adds a log-in option, if not a full layer of authentication

Iogear personal security mouse

Reviewer's comments: This mouse provides a convenient way to log in with the swipe of a finger in place of having to type in a password

Performance: B-

Functionality: A

Features: B

Value: B+

Price: $90



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Iogear biometric mouse

Biometric devices add a useful layer of security, but they also take up valuable desk space, making it hard to find room to actually do any work. The Personal Security Mouse from Iogear adds fingerprint-scanning to your log-on process ' and takes up less space than the mouse you use now.

The PSM, at 2 inches wide and 3.5 inches long, is a little smaller than a typical mouse. But it has a good feel to it, possibly because of its unusual finish. Its coating, which Iogear calls Nano Shield, apparently gives the mouse a better grip in addition to shielding the surface from bacteria that could be passed on.

Setting up the PSM was no more difficult than any other USB mouse. We just plugged it in and loaded the driver from the included CD. The fingerprint reader installation was as simple as starting the setup program on the same CD.

Registering a fingerprint could be a bit of a challenge for someone who has never done it ' we had to take several shots at it ourselves. Also, although you get seven attempts to make three good fingerprint impressions, there is no indication that a particular print is adequate. You just get an OK when you have made the third good one.

The sensor accepted registered fingerprints only 70 percent of the time, significantly lower than any other fingerprint scanner we've tested.

Once you're registered, the software demands a reboot. After Windows loads, you are asked to scan your fingerprint. If the scan is successful, the software sends your log-in information, and you can continue. If you can't get a good scan, or if the mouse is broken or you can't remember which fingers you've registered, you can press Cancel, and it will give you a regular log-in window.

The regular log-in comes in handy, because the fingerprint sensor is much less accurate than this type of device usually is. We found it accepted registered fingerprints only 70 percent of the time.

For shared PCs, the PSM's Fingerprint Software can register more than one user and sets up a secure drive for each. The drives can be changed in size by the user or the system administrator. If moving a file to the secure drive is not convenient, the software gives you the option to encrypt it. We found this easy to do with a right click on the file, a menu selection and a finger swipe. Decrypting works the same way: Simply opening the file will prompt a fingerprint request and then decrypt and open the file in one sweep.

To say this is another entire layer of authentication is inaccurate because you can use either your fingerprint or a password: It doesn't require both. But it does add a layer of convenience. And when you change your Windows password, the PSM software keeps up with the change, equating your fingerprint with the new password. You can also set it so you can log in to Windows normally and use the mouse for the secure drive and encryption.

The PSM is priced at $90, which is reasonable for a good mouse with a fingerprint reader. Even if it isn't a full layer of authentication, the software's multiple-user support, secure disks and file encryption make up for it.

This product would be good for a user who wants the convenience of an alternate authentication method or perhaps forgets a password often. Its size would also make it a good choice for laptop PC users who travel often.

About the Author

Greg Crowe is a former GCN staff writer who covered mobile technology.

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