House office secures files with biometrics

The Office of Legislative Counsel for the House of Representatives on June 1 planned to become the first office on Capitol Hill to install biometric technology to protect confidential files and working documents, using iris scans to authenticate users' identities.

The office selected SAFLink Corp.'s SAF2000 authentication software, which enables customers to choose among a variety of security technologies, including fingerprints, speech verification and face recognition. The cost is $36,000.

"It's easy, and it will get us out of password jail," said Lynn Richardson, the office administrator.

Until now, the office has required users to change their passwords every three months, but the routine was a hassle because people couldn't remember them, Richardson said. Office managers had been looking for other ways to increase security.

But the search became more critical after the anthrax scare on Capitol Hill last fall forced the office to shut its doors for more than a week. It scrambled to buy laptops for its staff of 50 to continue working from other locations, but managers were concerned the laptops were not secure enough.

SAF2000 uses a biometrics suite for Microsoft Corp. Windows NT/2000 networks. The company's iris recognition system is patented, according to Matt Shannon, SAFLink's manager of government services.

The office wanted the technology, Shannon said, because of the difficulty of changing passwords and the ability to restrict access to working documents until they were ready to be released to the public.

The technology also enables customers to mix and match security systems. For example, fingerprint technology in a hospital setting may not be the best system because workers wear latex gloves, Shannon said. Iris scanning, on the other hand, may be the preferred technology because it involves no physical contact.

"Because documents created and held by [the office] are sensitive in nature, it is important that they be adequately secure," said Walter Hamilton, SAFLink's vice president of business development. "We believe that our SAF2000 solution, combined with Panasonic Authenticam desktop iris recognition cameras, will provide the level of security required for this critical government application."

***

SAFLink Corp.'s SAF2000 includes:

* Biometric matching for secure authentication between client workstations and servers.

* Centralized management of server-based authentication.

* Secure storage of user information in a central database.

* Encrypted communications between client workstations and servers.

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