Touch and Go

Fingerprint readers mean better security--and no more tricky passwords.
Magazine Contributor
2 min read

This story appears in the March 2005 issue of . Subscribe »

Eventually, passwords may fall into the "Quaint Security Devices of the Past" category. Biometrics provide a convenient replacement and don't require memorizing obscure combinations of letters and numbers. Fingerprint identification is making its way into portable devices like cell phones, PDAs and laptops--hardware that's vulnerable when lost or stolen. Since businesses can't afford to lose their data, fingerprint readers make more sense than password protection.

The appearance of fingerprint readers in cell phones is the most recent development. They have been released in Japan and Korea, and Europe is next, with the United States following in the next couple of years. However, we already have some options here for laptops and PDAs. External fingerprint scanners have been available for a while, and more recently they've moved up the chain as built-in options.

The IBM T42 Notebookcomes with a built-in fingerprint scanner. It greeted me with the fingerprint scanner setup software when I first started up. Loading in fingerprints and going through the whole process took less than five minutes from start to restart with the user-friendly wizard. The first time I tried to log on, the match failed, but with a little more care in swiping, I logged on successfully the second time and didn't have a problem with subsequent attempts.

The Hewlett-Packard iPAQ hx2750 is a Pocket PC with a built-in fingerprint reader, which works as part of a comprehensive security suite called HP ProtectTools. You choose whether to have fingerprint, PIN or password protection. Setup is straightforward, and I had no trouble enrolling fingerprints from both hands, then using them to log in to the system and unlock files. The fingerprint feature is convenient, especially on a PDA, where you don't have the luxury of a full keyboard to type passwords. The all-around package makes for one of the most secure mobile devices available. Mobile entrepreneurs who have put off attending to security on their portable devices don't have any reason to hold off now--fingerprint readers make security a quick and easy proposition.

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