Getting your fingerprints on Windows 7

Microsoft OS is the first to use biometrics in core package

Lots of people are anxiously waiting to get their hands on Windows 7, but today I learned that you can use those hands — your fingerprints, actually — to log into the OS as well. As I work through the pending GCN Lab review of Windows 7, I was able to experiment with the new Windows Biometric Framework (WBF).

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Windows 7 is the first operating system from Microsoft to have biometrics as part of the core package. The way it works is that any fingerprint reader or other biometric tool simply has to conform to the WBF. This should quickly eliminate incompatible middleware problems that have been a thorn in the side of folks trying to increase network security using biometrics.

Take the Upek Protector Suite as an example. Upek was always a participant in our previous biometric roundups. The Protector Suite was a way for administrators to manage all of the biometric devices on their network. But here was the catch: It only worked with other Upek products. But under Windows 7, the new Protector Suite should be able to manage any biometric device that conforms to the WBF standards.

All devices sign into the WBF, and management tools use that data to monitor the network instead of looking for individual fingerprint readers. In our testing, most of our biometric tools in the lab are already WBF-compliant, and installing them was as easy as plugging them into a Windows 7 notebook or desktop.

Once Windows 7 is released, the only way a biometric management software suite won’t work across a Windows 7 network is if a company specifically restricts its use to only the company's products. Don’t laugh, we’ve seen companies do this in other industries as part of boneheaded marketing plans to force feds into standardizing on one product line. But we don’t think that will happen here. In fact, creating biometric monitoring tools that work across the board means that companies like Upek can sell their management suite as a stand alone product, even if an agency has devices other than the Upek sensors installed. Now it becomes more of a matter of having the most accurate, easiest to use software at the best price, which means everybody wins.

Oh, and it should also mean that it will be easier to install any type of biometric sensor, which will make beefing up security less of a chore. So get those fingers (and eyeballs and voices) ready for Windows 7, because they may be pulling extra duty.

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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