[ISN] Agency gives biometrics a home

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Mon Oct 21 2002 - 02:34:39 PDT

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    By Dibya Sarkar 
    Oct. 21, 2002
    The Chicago Housing Authority has given the thumbs up to a fingerprint
    identification technology that it hopes will provide greater security
    for its network.
    Since its approval last summer, CHA ({http://www.thecha.org}
    www.thecha.org) has begun installing the biometric technology in an
    effort to reduce the myriad of passwords that the 500 or so employees
    use to access various databases and systems, said Bryan Land, the
    agency's assistant chief information officer.
    The technology would help authenticate a user and possibly reduce the
    chances of unauthorized access, he said, adding that employees also
    sometimes share passwords with other people. Land also said the
    technology reduces the workload of his "fairly small IT shop" of 30
    individuals and a help desk that would have to continually deal with
    password-related problems among the user base at one of the largest
    public housing agencies in the country.
    Gene Chayevsky, president and chief executive officer of Miramar,
    Fla.-based BioLink Technologies International Inc., which developed
    the biometric technology that CHA is usin, said more than 50 percent
    of network breaches occur from within an organization. The technology
    has an audit trail so the agency knows who's accessing what
    information and when.
    Land said CHA employees were receptive to the fingerprint technology,
    which is less invasive than using retinal technology. BioLink's
    U-Match Mouse, embedded with a small digital fingerprint reader, scans
    an individual's thumbprint in about a second. Land said each mouse
    costs about $85 to $90, and the authentication server costs about
    $16,000 to $17,000. By next year, the technology should be fully
    Chayevsky said the secure database that authenticates the thumbprint
    scan doesn't actually contain digital representations of such prints.
    "They are, in fact, mathematical models representing the unique points
    called minutiae of a fingerprint," Chayevsky said. "Most biometric
    companies don't work with fingerprints, most work with mathematical
    Although not as accurate as retinal identification technology,
    Chayevsky said fingerprint technology is "very, very accurate for most
    enterprise applications."
    Chayevsky called CHA "visionaries" and "innovators" in deploying the
    still-growing technology. "I think this is still fairly early days in
    the evolution of biometrics generally," he said, adding he expected a
    lot more government agencies to follow CHA's lead soon.
    Land said it's true that governments aren't usually on the leading
    edge, but added: "This, we felt, was a pretty safe proposition. It was
    a win-win. We didn't risk anything and we had a lot to gain by it."
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