Finger Tips

By Lauren Simonds
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Multiple people accessing multiple computers in a fast-paced environment can make securing data a challenge. Imagine a medical office, where doctors, nurses and support staff need to access patient records, insurance information or calendaring applications repeatedly. In these days of federally mandated auditing, patient privacy and identity theft, tracking who accessed what information and when isn't just a logistical dilemma, it's a legal one, too.

DigitalPersona (DP), a Redwood City, Calif. company, recently announced a product it says could help SMBs increase data security, reduce administrative costs and increase their compliance. Its DigtialPersona Pro Kiosk, a combination software and biometric fingerprint scanner solution, is designed to let workers log in and out of shared computers and applications quickly and securely.

According to Vance Bjorn, the company's CTO, companies in a variety of industries — most notably retail, healthcare and manufacturing — can benefit from DigitalPersona Pro Kiosk. "Companies with busy work environments often sacrifice security for convenience," he said. "Logging on to computers is too slow, and employees frequently don't log off, which leaves confidential data at risk and makes tracking computer access for compliance reasons difficult."

The idea behind the Kiosk, said Bjorn, is that each authorized person unlocks access to their workstation by means of an attached fingerprint scanner — he or she scans a finger, the PC makes the identification and unlocks, allowing the person access to the network, applications or Web pages they're authorized to use. A scan of the finger locks the computer when the person is finished.

DP refers to these actions as "One Touch Logon" and "One Touch Unlock." Bjorn said the person doesn't actually log off. After "logging off," the user's Windows session remains active but locked and secure until the authorized person scans a finger again.

System Components
The Pro Kiosk is what's known as a sever-client solution, meaning that it comes with Digital Pro Server software that installs on a network server and separate software that installs install on each computer on the network. It also includes the hardware, in this case a Digital Persona's proprietary fingerprint scanner for each shared computer.

Pro Kiosk runs on Microsoft Windows 2000 and Windows XP operating systems. DigitalPersona Pro Server runs on Microsoft Windows 2000 Server or Microsoft Windows 2003 Server.

Pro Kiosk is an extension of the company's desktop program called DigitalPersona Pro, which is designed to replace the login and password functions on desktop PCs. The main difference is that Pro Kiosk is designed to manage multiple users who share the same computer. "Pro Kiosk uses the Pro Server software to centrally manage the shared computers," said Bjorn. "It integrates with the Windows Active Directory to make it easier and cheaper to deploy and maintain."

Scan and Enter — Digital Persona's Pro Kiosk secures access to shared computers using a biometric fingerprint scanner.

Passing on Passwords
Password protection is a notoriously unreliable way to protect sensitive data. Employees often share passwords or write them down. Bjorn said that complicated password policies that change every 30 days tend to increase the number of forgotten passwords, and that means more calls to the helpdesk.

"This product eliminates the compromise between security and convenience," he said. "It reduces the cost of administering identities and increases the level of security at the same time.

Bjorn said that Pro Kiosk also provides audit trails by tracking and logging all shared computer events. "Pro Kiosk adds convenience to compliance," he said. "This is especially important to companies in industries that must meet state and federal standards, such as healthcare and finance. Our product provides compliance for FDA, HIPAA, JCAHO and Sarbanes-Oxley regulations."

DigitalPersona Pro Kiosk includes three components, which are priced as follows:

  • Digital Pro Server software: $1,499
  • Kiosk Application Software: $149 (supports up to 50 people and includes the fingerprint scanners)
  • Individual user license: $125 per person

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com

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This article was originally published on June 23, 2005
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