Fingerprint recognition: SecuGen Corp.'s EyeD Keyboard

For our review of fingerprint scanning technology, we looked at a different kind of scanner from the stand-alone fingerprint scanners we've tested in the past. This time we tested one that is embedded in a keyboard, the EyeD Keyboard from SecuGen Corp.

The company also makes a mouse with an embedded fingerprint scanner called the EyeD Mouse II and a stand-alone unit called the EyeD Hamster. All three peripherals use the same software, and the fingerprint scanning operates the same way.

We tested the EyeD Keyboard on a stand-alone PC, but SecuGen will also offer a client/server fingerprint authentication system in the near future.

The EyeD Keyboard is a standard 104-key keyboard with a fingerprint scanner embedded at the top left of the console. Users simply place a finger on the scanner to gain access to the system. The scanner extracts minutiae points (where ridges split or end) from the fingerprint image and converts the data into a unique mathematical template comparable to a 60-digit password. The template is then encrypted and the fingerprint image is discarded.

When analyzing a fingerprint, SecuGen performs one-to-one matching, also known as verification. This means the scanned image is only compared with the fingerprint template stored for that user ID, instead of searching a bank of fingerprint templates until a match is found. The latter method is one-to-many matching, also called identification.

The keyboard comes with SecuGen's proprietary software called SecuDesktop. When used with Microsoft Corp. Windows 95/98, four applications are available in addition to user enrollment and account management. First, you can replace your Windows 95/98/NT password with a fingerprint. You can also secure your favorite screensaver and unlock it with a fingerprint. Finally, SecuDesktop offers both file and folder encryption and decryption with a fingerprint.

If you use SecuDesktop on a Windows NT 4.0 system, only two applications are available: logon and workstation lock.

However, SecuGen said that a new version of the software — SecuDesktop2000 — will be released in mid-July. The new version will be compatible with Windows 98, NT and 2000 and will support file and folder encryption for all three operating systems.

We found the EyeD Keyboard extremely easy to set up. The unit comes in both parallel and USB configurations. We tested the parallel version, which can be used with Windows 95/98 and Windows NT 4.0. SecuGen has wisely made the parallel port connector an adapter, so you could use another parallel device at the same time. The USB version works with Windows 95 OSR 2.1 and Windows 98.

Registering users and managing accounts is simple and intuitive with the SecuDesktop Fingerprint Registration Center. Two good fingerprint images are required to register a new user, and we had no trouble getting good fingerprint reads each time.

As with most biometric devices, SecuGen allows an administrator to adjust thresholds to achieve accurate yet secure operation. You can adjust brightness and contrast, as well as choose from a list of security levels ranging from highest to lowest. The highest security level requires the greatest number of matching minutiae points.

Encrypting files and folders is easy as well. Simply right click on the file or folder name and select File En/Decryption. A padlock icon appears next to the filename when a file or folder is encrypted.

Users can only register one fingerprint, so if that finger is injured they must use a backup password (all users are required to have one) or seek help from the administrator. This, of course, means that someone could gain access by simply learning a user's password, which defeats the purpose of scanning fingerprints in the first place.

According to SecuGen, in the new software version, SecuDesktop2000, administrators will be able to eliminate backup passwords for users and assign them only to administrators for increased security.

The parallel port version of the EyeD Keyboard has a retail price of $129 and the USB version costs $139. The parallel version of the EyeD Mouse costs $119 and the USB version, which will be available in early July, will cost $129. The EyeD Hamster also comes in both parallel and USB versions and the prices are the same as those for the mouse.

A client/server version of the system will be available shortly. It will be called SecuDomain2000 and will run in the Windows 2000 enterprise environment. Pricing is not yet available for the product. In addition, SecuGen offers software development kits for other operating systems, including Unix and Linux.

For more information, contact SecuGen at (408) 573-0495. You can also send e-mail to info@secugen.com.

REPORT CARD

EyeD Keyboard

SecuGen Corp.

(408) 573-0495

www.secugen.com

Accuracy: Very accurate, second only to iris scanning.

Ease of use: *****

Perceived intrusiveness: Fairly intrusive

Ease of setup: ****

Ease of

enrollment: *****

Price: $129

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