Computer security vulnerabilities are a constant concern to most businesses. Passwords, smart cards and other tokens can be passed on to third parties or fall into the wrong hands while it is estimated that more than 80% of help desk calls relate to locked devices and forgotten passwords*. Kerry Secure Limited, a Sussex-based provider of biometrics and computer hardware and networking services, has the answer to this persistent problem with its fingerprint authentication systems.
Kerry Secure distributes a number of fingerprint authentication systems, most notably from DigitalPersona, Inc. and SecuGen Corporation in the USA. For several years, fingerprint authentication technologies have provided a viable and credible alternative to passwords and other security devices. Acceptance of these technologies has grown rapidly as the benefits of improved security at an affordable cost become widely known throughout the world.
Historically, password systems have been the most widely adopted way of providing security for computer systems but they suffer inherent weaknesses. For example, if each user sets his/her own password, it can be too simple and easily guessed by others. However, if passwords are set by the IT department, they are likely to be complex and easily forgotten. This can lead to notes being stuck to the monitor or elsewhere, which immediately defeats the purpose of having a security system. Furthermore, the cost of maintaining password protection can be prohibitively high in terms of support calls and administration.
Thanks to the latest technologies, fingerprint authentication can be used to replace passwords and tokens throughout a computer system. Enrolment takes less than a minute and, thereafter, logging-on to a workstation anywhere on the network takes literally a few seconds. The chances of "buddy logging" are almost entirely avoided. Each person's fingerprint is unique and, unlike a password, does not have to be remembered.
In the USA, the technology has been widely embraced with diverse organisations ranging from the US Department of Defense to the Toronto Blue Jays Baseball team using fingerprint authentication systems. In the UK, more than 1,000 schools are using the technology for their library management, registration and cashless catering systems. Other notable users include University College Hospital, London, Liverpool Women's Hospital and even a chain of entertainment complexes in Scotland.
The ProT product range, currently available from DigitalPersona, is renowned for being one of the most advanced fingerprint authentication systems and has been successfully deployed throughout North America, Europe and the rest of the world. In July 2005, DigitalPersona was awarded the prestigious US Frost & Sullivan Award for Excellence in Technology in the field of biometric homeland security and surveillance technologies. Meanwhile, SecuGen's SNAPT network authentication system was released in early 2005 and is already gaining widespread popularity.
DigitalPersona and SecuGen target similar markets but each has a number of USPs that provide alternatives to potential customers. For example, DigitalPersona products are designed for office environments whereas SecuGen peripherals are more rugged and can be used in more hostile environments as well as in the office.
Trevor Swainson, founder of Kerry Secure Limited, comments: "We have been involved with fingerprint authentication systems for more than five years and now the technology has come of age. The technology is being rapidly deployed at all levels of business from SMEs to large, corporate clients. These systems really do work and bring security to the next level."
The cost of a fingerprint authentication system from Kerry Secure starts at less than 100 for a single workstation and from 1,000 for a network.
* According to SC Magazine, June 2003