Dubai Holding explores biometrics for its execs

Conglomerate Dubai Holding is looking at using biometric tokens as an added security measure for its legions of travelling executives.

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By  Chris Whyatt Published  February 5, 2006

Conglomerate Dubai Holding is looking at using biometric tokens as an added security measure for its legions of travelling executives. Speaking after a high-level security roundtable organised by Cisco last week, Dubai Holding’s CIO, Sabri Al-Azazi, revealed a number of new technologies the UAE conglomerate was considering to better protect its various IT systems. Biometric tokens — which use digitally-captured information linked to a biological characteristic such as handwriting, fingerprints, facial scanning, retinal or iris scans, or even DNA — are now being studied in the Dubai Holding technology labs with a serious view to implementation for its mobile workforce in the near future. “This would allow the executives to have a key fob, a key chain, that has got a token that will allow you to access your network,” Al-Azazi told IT Weekly. “This is like enhancing the password; it’s not going to be a clear text password anymore. Such a technology will be applicable for an organisation like Dubai Holding because people are moving around a lot,” he went on to add. Though an analysis still has to be undertaken to determine how many users this would involve, and who exactly needs this kind of technology, given the sheer size of Dubai Holding — which owns Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City, the Jumeirah Group, Dubai Properties, and Dubai Healthcare City among other organisations, with a number of substantial international interests — the scale of the biometric operation is likely to be huge. “We have a lot of line management and executives who travel around, both domestically and throughout the world,” said Al-Azazi, who admitted that the security of an IT infrastructure, and subsequently that of an organisation, can never be ‘100% bullet-proof’. “If you can count on the third fact of security — biometrics — it becomes very hard for people to attack you, or impersonate you,” he revealed. Dubai Holding is also considering future implementation of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. Primarily used in retailing at present, RFID acts as an automatic ID system using small barcode-like devices to identify and track almost anything — people, commercial products, and corporate assets and so on. “It’s very innovative, and I am considering how I can use it as an application and how to apply it elsewhere, not only in a retailing sense,” explained Al-Azazi, who said that Dubai Healthcare City, for example, would be a big beneficiary. “I want to introduce it to certain types of verticals. I would also like to use it on my own networking and IT assets, where they move to and from the data centre, and to determine who is moving them,” he said. “I know that this technology can be applied in a lot of areas,” Al-Azazi went on to state.

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