Windows 2000 to support biometrics

Looking to add new security features to its operating system, Microsoft Corp. has licensed biometric technology to integrate into future versions of Windows 2000.

The software giant on Tuesday licensed I/O Software Inc.'s Biometric Application Program Interface (BAPI) and the biometrics authentication software found in its SecureSuite products.

Microsoft intends to include the technology in the next version of Windows 2000 as an alternative authentication mechanism to standard passwords. Biometrics uses a person's physical characteristics, such as fingerprints, retinal pattern or voice, to authenticate use of a desktop or server.

The authentication mechanism, though highly secure, is not widely used because of a lack of standard interfaces. Biometrics also requires hardware to perform the scan and software to match the scan to stored data.

For the Windows platform, BAPI will provide a "standard" software protocol and API for communication between software applications and biometric devices. BAPI, developed in 1998 by I/O Software, includes several hardware interfaces, encryption and biometric algorithms. SecureSuite will add the software to support log on, capture and storage of biometric data and user interfaces.

The BAPI protocol is not a recognized industry standard, but I/O Software — and now Microsoft — are hoping it becomes a unifying force in an industry that is fragmented by incompatible hardware and software.

"To date, biometrics has been called a zero billion-dollar industry," said Tas Dienes, vice president and co-founder of I/O Software. "No one is buying anything, [and] there is no universal standard, but now with Microsoft making the first move, we think a lot of people will follow. Obviously, this is good for us, but it also is a shot in the arm for the whole industry."

I/O Software, a private, 25-person, Riverside, Calif., company, says BAPI can be used to support applications such as e-commerce, financial transactions, e-mail encryption and digital signatures, file and database encryption, and smart cards.

For more information about enterprise networking, go to Network World Fusion. Story copyright 2000 Network World Inc. All rights reserved.

MORE INFO

"Network access made simple, secure" [Federal Computer Week, April 3, 2000]

"Industry leader pushes for "more robust' security" [FCW.com, Feb. 25, 2000]

"Touch-and-go computer access" [FCW.com, March 8, 2000]

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