Industry leader pushes for 'more robust' security

The head of the International Biometric Industry Association this week urged federal leaders to consider creating a "more robust" plan for securing government computer systems.

The plea from the association came in the form of a letter from IBIA executive director Richard Norton to Richard Clarke, national coordinator for security, infrastructure protection and counterterrorism. The letter — intended as a response to the National Plan for Information Systems Protection that the Clinton Administration unveiled on Jan. 7 — takes aim at a cyberdefense strategy that relies heavily on public-key infrastructure (PKI), a system that uses mechanisms such as digital certificates to authenticate electronic transactions.

IBIA leaders propose adding to the plan a greater focus on biometrics — such as electronic verification of a computer user's fingerprints — to ensure the security of computer systems.

"IBIA recognizes the benefits of a PKI that uses digital certificates to authenticate the origin of electronic transactions and communications," Norton wrote in his letter to Clarke. "However, a PKI alone cannot provide positive identification of the individual who initiates a transaction or data access request.... Specifically, IBIA encourages the Administration to adopt a more robust plan that incorporates biometric authentication products as part of a multilayered security infrastructure that accurately identifies people who access or send information."

Norton argues that adding biometrics to a computer security plan would not replace other means of securing a system. Rather, he says biometrics would operate in conjunction with other computer security methods such as PKI and smart cards.

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