Data Protection At Your Fingertips

By Lauren Simonds
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Until recently, if you wanted to protect your business PCs, data files and servers from unauthorized access, you relied on user names and passwords.

Silex Combo Mini Fingerprint Reader
The Combo Mini stores personal info on a SIM card and combines the fingerprint scan with password protection for added security.

Managing that type of protection can become cumbersome as a business grows, and the number of systems, files and authorized employees increases right along with the number of people who forget their passwords altogether.

Silex Technologies offers what it considers to be the perfect solution for managing access to company data and hardware: its new line of fingerprint biometric devices and authentication software.

Designed to protect access to sensitive data such as medical, financial, intellectual and governmental, the Silex biometric readers come in a variety of solutions and provide different levels of protection, and all of them include Silex's proprietary fingerprint verification software, SX-Biometric Suite.

Silex FIC-200
Silex offers a Type II PC Card to protect notebook data while you travel.

How It Works
All of the Silex fingerprint readers use what the company calls a "high quality capacitor detection type silicon sensor" that scans at a resolution of 500 dpi (dots per inch). According to David Smith, Silex Technology's president, the silicon sensor results in finer, more accurate scans.

"We deliberately chose a higher-quality sensor in order to provide a higher level of protection," said Smith. "Our readers have an extremely high level of accuracy, which is exactly what you want in a data protection system. We have a 0.001 percent false acceptance rate and a 0.1 percent false rejection rate," he said.

The scanning sensor also supports 360-degree finger placement so that you can place your finger on the scanner in any direction and still get an accurate reading.

Silex MUSB200-Combo
Use Smartcards with the MUSB-200 fingerprint reading and password capability to increase the level of security.

For anyone concerned about having their fingerprints scanned and stored on a company hard drive, Smith says not to worry. "The software protects an individual's privacy," he said. "When scanning a finger during set up, the software creates a unique pattern of dots, or data points."

"The pattern, which we call 'minutia,' gets compressed and encrypted. The actual fingerprint is not recorded," said Smith. " The next time that person accesses the reader, the software compares the minutia to verify authentication."

Silex offers a variety of products that, according to the company, provide different levels of security. Depending on the particular biometric device you choose, Smith says you can:

  • Restrict computer/printer access to specific individuals
  • Track the dates and times that employees access data
  • Eliminate the need for remembering passwords and user names
  • Allow employee access to PCs in multiple locations
  • Provide higher levels of security for industries that handle sensitive data or are bound by HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley and other Federal regulation
  • Prevent password or electronic ID card theft
  • Print sensitive documents from your PC knowing they won't land in the printout tray (vulnerable to prying eyes) until you authenticate your fingerprint at the printer
  • Restrict physical access to designated areas such as server rooms

Products and Applications

This stylish mini fingerprint reader also features a SIM card and a USB interface. The reader combines three levels of security: fingerprint, personal data (the fingerprint minutia) on the SIM card and password. The device is small enough to wear around your neck or on a keychain, and Silex describes it as "ideal" for accessing notebooks and PCs with a USB interface. Price: $179 MSRP.

Silex SX-Biometric software
To protect personal privacy, Silex fingerprint readers capture and store fingerprint data points for authentication, but not images of your actual fingerprints.

A Type II PC Card reader with a pop-out sensor, this device is designed for use with a notebook PC. Silex says the reader is particularly well suited for business travelers who keep sensitive data on their notebooks. Price: $199 MSRP.

The corded fingerprint reader with a USB interface that, according to Silex, is suitable for desktops and laptops and designed for any one-to-one authentication application. Price: $149 MSRP.

Designed to work in conjunction with Smartcards, this reader also provides three levels of security — a combination of fingerprint, Smart card and password. It also stores fingerprint minutia on the Smartcard. Silex says the device is appropriate for "environments with unspecified staff requiring access to the protected environment," i.e., schools, hospitals etc. Price: $179 MSRP.

FPA-70 Fingerprint Physical Access System
Designed to restrict access to sensitive areas such as server rooms or in industries such as healthcare, finance and government, the FPA-70 can be a stand-alone access controller or it can be added to a network to give managers centralized control over different areas. The device can enroll up to 1,200 people and register up to three fingerprints each. Price: Starting at $2,499 MSRP.

SX-Biometrics Suite Software
All of the Silex biometric fingerprint readers come with this software. According to the company, the software is designed to cover four key areas.

  • SX-Logon — Secures the access to Windows PCs and authenticates fingerprints at the PC login. The software can register the minutia of up to five different prints per person up to a total or 32 people.
  • SX-Pass — Replaces user names and passwords with fingerprints, which the company says makes easier to manage multiple users. It's also designed to prevent password and ID theft.
  • SX-Lock — Silex says this aspect of the software lets you encrypt individual files and applications which can be opened using the fingerprint reader. The idea is to keep files and apps safe from illegal access.

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com

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This article was originally published on October 21, 2004
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