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Worth a look.

Whether you're a road warrior or a home user who connects to the corporate network via the shared family computer, you probably rely on passwords to protect company files and accounts.

The problem is that reusable passwords do not provide true security. Biometrics offers a more secure option, and new products are making it a more viable one as well. For example, Silex Technology, Inc., recently released its Combo-Mini, a small plastic device that connects to a computer's USB port. The three-inch-long Mini features a sliding plastic cover over a small fingerprint sensor. The system software comes on a CD and installs in about ten minutes; a USB extension cable is included in the package.

An administrator account is needed for setup, with separate accounts for each user. These accounts are easy to configure in Windows XP (the administrator account is typically password-enabled and is the only account from which new software can be added or deleted).

When Windows opens, users are prompted to scan an enrolled finger; authentication is instantaneous, and that person's account opens. In every test conducted by "Tech Talk," unenrolled fingers were blocked. If the device is unplugged, the computer automatically locks.

A task-bar icon can be used to launch a locking screensaver, or to open the User Manager and other options, such as a residue check, which scans the sensor to see if it needs cleaning.

There are two versions available. The first uses a small card that fits into the reader and holds the fingerprint template; a user can carry this like a keychain and plug it into any computer with the software installed. In this configuration, matches are done on the card. The other version uses no card and allows up to 32 users to store templates on the computer itself. This version is more suited to users with home networks.

Pros. The Combo-Mini is an easy way to add a strong layer of security. It is unobtrusive, easy to use, and easy to configure. There was no noticeable delay when using the device during authentication.

Cons. It took one user several tries to get a readable fingerprint scan enrolled. Also, there is some risk inherent in trusting authentication to a single device that could be lost or broken; however, there is a programmable hotkey that allows an administrator to override the scanner. Finally, the device requires a dedicated USB port, making it unavailable for other uses. This can be a problem if users, like this reviewer, are using the only other ports for a keyboard and a mouse.

Want to get one? The Combo-Minis are available through select online retailers for about $179.
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Title Annotation:Tech Talk; Silex Technology Inc.
Author:Piazza, Peter
Publication:Security Management
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2005
Previous Article:DHS cybersecurity.
Next Article:Spam, phishing stats.

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