Microsoft introduces $55 fingerprint scanner.

The folks over at Yahoo! News have a review up on the Microsoft Print Reader; a biometric device that scans your fingerprint to verify your identity as opposed to logging in via the traditional user name and password.

Like other devices based on biometrics — the use of technology to recognize physical traits — the Microsoft reader scans the unique skin patterns on a finger. The device’s software keeps the image as a reference and bars others from triggering the automated passwords needed to access Web sites and computer programs.

Curiously, Microsoft warns that the Fingerprint Reader should not be trusted to secure access to corporate networks or to protect sensitive data, such as financial information.

Basically, the company says it’s about convenience, not security. That seems to rule out password-protected Web sites for credit cards, utilities, banking and others for which I might want to be spared having to remember and type a litany of passcodes.

In theory a fingerprint scanner should be a very secure way to validate users so I find it somewhat interesting that Microsoft doesn’t recommend using their new device for accessing corporate networks or protecting sensitive data. Considering that most systems would have to be modified to allowed a fingerprint scanner to work as an authentication device this suggests to me that this little toy just spits out related login and password information when the proper finger is scanned allowing it to interface with traditional systems and thus no more secure than typing things out by hand. That reduces it to something only the terminally lazy might be interested in. Or those with a serious James Bond fetish.

6 thoughts on “Microsoft introduces $55 fingerprint scanner.

  1. A German computer magazine ran a review of similar gadgets a few years ago. It was amazing how many clever and trivial ways they found to spoof the devices.

  2. Just so you know, fringer-prints are *not* unique.  Thus, not one (not one) single intelligence institution in US uses fingerprints to protect installations.  Retina scans abound, or they use fingerprints *along with* measurements of the hand as well (e.g., some EU airports use hand-scans, but not solely fingerprints).

    And, any fingerprint “expert” you meet is akin to a ufo-ologist, FBI special agents included.  wink  Seriously.  This is a field that is widely mistrusted by the properly informed.

    The only institution, no suprise here, that uses fingerprints for security is the British Cabinet.  Each Cabinet Member has a briefcase-laptop.  To activate the laptop the CM must present an thumbprint *and*, simulateanously, press their government issued signet ring into a reader.

    There’s a reason why they also require an accompanying signet ring.

    Fingerprint security is a misnomer, and is low-grade security for the uninformed masses.

    For our resident luddite cynics…
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/47187.stm
    http://cypherpunks.venona.com/date/1998/01/msg00557.html

    rob@egoz.org

  3. Just so you know, fringe-prints are *not* unique.

    I don’t think that’s an accurate statement.  All the information that we have to date points towards fingerprints being unique.  However, there have been recent studies done revealing the flaws which established this basis of uniqueness to begin with.

    Of course DNA testing is far more accurate than fingerprint analysis but I don’t imagine that many cases will be overturned based on this new report simply because of the number of matching points that need to be made in order to admit a print into evidence in the first place.

    A few of Government intelligence agencies relied on fingerprint access to some system areas and machines as recently as 2000 and then converted to other means for Y2K compliance and better reliability.

  4. Here are some good starting points in the debate on whether fingerprints are truely unique:

    http://www.fact-index.com/f/fi/fingerprint.html
    “There is some controversy over the uniqueness of fingerprints. Even those who accept their uniqueness sometimes argue that the techniques used to compare fingerprints are fallible.”

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/04/06/identity/
    “The study wasn’t designed to test matches between two or more different prints from the same finger, and it was even discovered that it originally included three instances of fingerprints being listed as similar but different, when they were actually different prints from the same finger. One pair was even found to be as dissimilar as prints from different people…”

    http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=156139
    “If you understand the word UNIQUE, you know that there are not varying levels of it, and that IT IS NOT defined by mathamatical probability. In fact, when something is unique, no math is even needed.”

    rob@egoz.org
    “lines”

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