Compaq is launching fingerprint password security for desktop andcalls. portable PCs, priced at less than #75.
The package includes a hardware finger scanner that plugs into standard PC parallel ports and software that ends the need for user passwords.
Compaq is selling the kit as a stand-alone product, but refused to say if it will incorporate it into its own machines.
Compaq claims that up to 50% of helpdesk calls are down to users forgetting passwords or not knowing how to change expired passwords. Fingerprint identification technology will reduce the number of calls relating to passwords and so reduce the cost of ownership, according to Compaq.
The systems would first appeal to vertical markets such as financial markets and medical systems, but the pricing would make it practical for any corporate PC network, said David Hall, strategic product manager at Compaq.
"Smart cards and passwords can be stolen or lost whereas fingerprints can only be used by the person authorised to log on," said Hall. "Almost everybody will see the benefits of this system. We think it's going to make a really big splash in the market."
However, using an external device to photograph the user's fingerprint does have some security flaws, according to Jamie Snowden, analyst with Input. "You can buy devices in the high street that can read information coming in through a parallel port," he explained. "This could be stored and used to log into the system. At #75, this is not going to be Fort Knox security."
But he added: "However, anything that means people don't have to remember passwords is a good idea. People always forget them or use their spouse's name, which isn't very secure."
Compaq Fingerprint Identification Technology stores the minute points marking the intersections of fingerprint lines which cannot be used to recreate the user's fingerprint. The technology was jointly developed by Compaq and Identicator Technology. The system is compatible with Windows 95, Windows NT 4.0 and operates within the framework of Windows NT Server 4.0 domain authentication. It will be shipping in mid-August this year.
Compaq 0845 2704000.
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