[ISN] More than passwords needed for Internet privacy

From: mea culpa (jerichoat_private)
Date: Thu Dec 10 1998 - 22:59:35 PST

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    More than passwords needed for Internet privacy
    02:40 p.m Dec 10, 1998 Eastern
    By Andrea Orr
    LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - High-tech companies that once dismissed concerns
    about online privacy are increasingly concurring with the critics. 
    If the Internet is ever to become a truly secure way to shop and exchange
    sensitive data, they say, it will take more than just secret passwords to
    protect private information. 
    Passwords are already passe, judging from the exhibit floor at the huge
    Comdex computer trade show here, where several companies pushed so-called
    biometrics as the next wave of network security. 
    Using small computer attachments to read eyes, fingerprints, voices or
    other personal features, biometrics offers secure ways to access
    information that cannot be stolen, shared or forgotten. 
    The biometrics industry is small but is rapidly gaining attention in
    high-tech circles. In his keynote address in Las Vegas earlier this week,
    Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates cited online privacy problems as a key
    pitfall of a wired world, and said biometrics offered a promising
    Earlier this year, a group of biometrics companies, including Iriscan Inc.
    of Marlton, N.J., and Identicator Inc. of San Bruno, Calif. formed a
    Washington-based trade group to represent them in the public policy debate
    over Internet security. 
    Some of these companies have been around for decades but have only served
    specialized high-security markets like prisons. They hope the growing
    attention to security in everyday transactions will pave the way for
    things like fingerprint readers or iris-scanning software to be installed
    in millions of home and office computers. 
    Currently a $25 million-a-year industry, biometrics will by some estimates
    expand to $1 billion by the year 2000. Some predict the rush to install
    biometric security systems will replace the Year 2000 computer crisis as
    the most pressing high-technology project after the millennium. 
    Visionics Corp. of Jersey City, N.J., makes face recognition technology,
    and two Florida companies, Saflink Corp. and TrueTouch Technologies Inc.,
    make a range of products to recognize users by various features, including
    voices.  Another company, Cyber-Sign Inc. of San Jose, Calif., advocates
    signature verification. 
    All these companies are promoting their products in the same way, as
    security systems that cannot be stolen, forgotten, shared, or intercepted
    by hackers -- problems they say make password-based security system
    somewhat flimsy. 
    While millions of electronic commerce transactions are completed without
    incident every day, experts fear inadequate security on the Internet
    leaves lots of sensitive information vulnerable. 
    In one recent example of the limits of passwords, a group of hackers from
    Europe broke into the e-mail system at Stanford University in Palo Alto,
    Calif., stole thousands of student and staff passwords and went undetected
    for three weeks. 
    Another problem is that computer users have become too trusting, using the
    same password to enter both secure and insecure Web sites, from where they
    are more easily stolen. 
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