IBM’s fingerprint reader points to the future

In one swipe, electronics giant enhances notebook security

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By  David Robinson Published  October 4, 2004

IBM took the opportunity at Gitex yesterday to launch the world’s first biometric ThinkPad with an integrated fingerprint reader, significantly enhancing laptop security. The new biometric capability simplifies access to personal and financial information, web sites, documents and e-mail while offering unmatched levels of data protection. “Today we raised the bar on security by integrating what was once considered sci-fi technology with the notebook of choice for everyday business,” says Imtiaz Ghani, regional manager personal computer division, IBM Middle East, Egypt and Pakistan. “The first biometric ThinkPad combines a fingerprint reader with an Embedded Security Subsystem, providing a layer of security that is built in, not bolted on. We build security into every part of our business solutions, from PCs to servers to middleware to wireless networks." The fingerprint reader is built into select models of the ThinkPad T42 and T42p. With the new reader, located on the wrist rest below the arrow keys, users swipe their finger across a small horizontally oriented sensor to log-on to their systems, software applications, web sites, or databases. The scanning process takes seconds, combining convenience with the strongest notebook security available, the company says. This type of fingerprint reader captures more data than a traditional “picture” capture window because it scans more of the fingertip’s surface area, helping to eliminate misidentification, the firm claims. IBM is also releasing a new version of Client Security Software, Version 5.4, which includes Password Manager and simplified ease-of-use and installation – available by preload for the first time. “The ThinkPad T42 with the integrated fingerprint reader is the most secure notebook available because it is backed up by the IBM Embedded Security Subsystem. Combined with the enhanced Client Security Software, Version 5.4, this hardware and software based technology protects vital security information like passwords, encryption keys and electronic credentials, while guarding against unauthorised user access,” IBM says. IBM claims it is the only PC vendor offering a biometric solution supported by an embedded security chip and enhanced security software. The company says what differentiates its solution from Microsoft’s or Fujitsu’s fingerprint reader is that IBM believes that security should be built-in, not bolted on. Other vendors' solutions, IBM claims, are equivalent of having a lone lifeguard protect an entire beach. IBM's On Demand Security architecture employs concentric defences – built into both its hardware and software – that act as layered deterrents to malicious activity and intrusions. “It is often the case today that people have to change their password every 90 days, which can be a problem. People have different passwords – it can get confusing. Now just one swipe will authenticate the user,” says Ghani.

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