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Biometrics software aimed at improving Windows NT security

Network World Fusion

(IDG) -- Net Nanny Software International this week began shipping biometrics software that adds a layer of security to Windows NT networks.

The company hopes to augment the security of the Windows operating system, which has never been known for having hardened defenses.

Biometrics is the science of measuring and analyzing biological data. In high-tech, biometrics refers to technologies for measuring and analyzing human body characteristics such as fingerprints, eye retinas or irises, voice patterns and facial patterns for the purpose of authenticating a user's identity.

Biometrics is set to explode, according to the International Biometric Group, a research and consulting firm in New York City. In 2000, total revenue for biometric hardware and software was $110 million, an increase of nearly 50% over a year ago. Total revenue is expected to grow to $594 million by 2003, according to IBG.

Most of those dollars will be spent by large enterprises, according to IBG.

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Earlier this week, Net Nanny cast its offering into the market with BioPassword LogOn for Windows NT. The client/server biometrics application recognizes a user's typing pattern and uses it to authenticate them to the network. The software uses a mathematical algorithm to record pressure, speed and rhythm as a user types their user name and password. The typing pattern is compared against a template created when the software is initially installed.

"Over the past 12 months all of the biometric technologies have finally come down in price, finally have incorporated standards, finally have adequate accuracy and finally work," says Samir Nanavati, a partner with IBG. "Specifically for keystroke biometrics, the accuracy was not there, but now it is." Nanavati says the other key for success is tight integration with NT.

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BioPassword is layered on top of the existing NT logon screen, which means users don't have to learn anything new. It also does not require the installation of additional desktop hardware.

"We don't change the procedure or the fundamentals of NT logon...we layer software on top," says Mitch Tarr, vice president of strategic alliances for Net Nanny.

After the software is loaded, users are prompted to type their user name and password about 15 times to create a template. "After that, the BioPassword logon screen replaces the NT logon screen but the two behave a lot like each other."

Tarr admits, however, that BioPassword does introduce a small amount of latency into the logon procedure.

The software has components that run on both the client and the server. The server software runs on NT 4.0 Server with Service Pack 3 or higher and performs the task of authenticating the user to the network. The client software runs on NT 4.0 workstation and captures the typing pattern. Net Nanny says BioPassword has a 98% accuracy rate.

BioPassword for NT requires a connection to a LAN, it does not work with dial-up connections. The client software, however, can be used independently to authenticate a user as part of the logon to a disconnected computer such as a laptop.

A version for Windows 2000 is due out next year and will augment the Kerberos security that is part of that operating system.

Net Nanny's Tarr says the software is aimed at helping stem internal security breaches, which continue to plague enterprises. This year's annual Computer Crime and Security Survey by the Computer Security Institute says that 71% of enterprises reported unauthorized network access by internal users. The breaches included theft, fraud, sabotage and the introduction of viruses.

BioPassword is shipping now and is priced between $20 and $90 depending on volume.




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RELATED SITES:
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