Mouse as security sentry
- By Michelle Speir
- Jul 29, 2002
Some inventors are still trying to build a better mousetrap. Siemens AG has been busy building a better mouse that also traps intruders.
The ID Mouse Professional is part of a new breed of mice with fingerprint scanners that check the identity of users, providing another way to keep unauthorized people from using a system.
Unlike the other biometric mice we've reviewed, the Siemens mouse has an optical link to the central processing unit, rather than a cord.
And unlike roller-ball mice, optical mice have no moving parts and are therefore maintenance-free. A small scroll wheel, which also doubles as a third button, enables users to scroll down a page without even moving the mouse. Optical mice offer extremely smooth operation and can be used on nearly any surface (no mouse pad required) except reflective materials such as glass and mirrors.
The ID Mouse Professional is also quite a looker. The upper surface is deep metallic blue, and the sides and bottom are silver. The fingerprint scanner is located in the center of the top of the mouse, making it easy to reach with multiple fingers and suitable for left-handed users.
We were impressed with the software's intuitive interface and excellent documentation. We were up and running in no time.
Enrolling a new user is simple and straightforward. For added security, a fingerprint is required to access the User Manager (except upon first use). From there, the administrator enters the user's first and last name, a log-in name, a designation as either a user or an administrator, and a password.
The password must match the user's Microsoft Corp. Windows password and can only be changed from the Windows Control Panel. Administrators can edit and delete all user data as well as add users. Users can change their first and last names but not the log-in name or group, and they can enroll new fingerprints but not delete existing ones.
The next step is fingerprint capture. Animation and text instructions guide users through the process, which requires three captured images per enrolled finger. The system is not picky about finger placement — it needs to cover the entire sensor, but it does not have to be centered — which makes it easy to use.
A diagram of two hands provides a clear view of the enrollment status of all fingers. From there, it's easy to select new fingers to enroll or delete previously enrolled fingers. A smart safety feature does not allow deletion of an administrator's last remaining enrolled print.
Several other useful functions are available as well. One is called Play Mode, which allows users to practice capturing fingerprints. Another, Improve, lets users recapture a set of prints, and Test Fingerprint tests verification for a particular enrolled finger.
The User Manager also includes several customizable security options. A timeout feature stops the capture process with an "Access Denied" message if no finger is placed on the sensor within a user-defined amount of time from one to 200 seconds.
Administrators can choose between two log-on modes — one requiring only a fingerprint and the other requiring either a fingerprint or a user name and password.
However, company representatives told us they are working on a new version of the software that will not include the fingerprint-only option because of the danger of permanent lockout if the sensor malfunctions. The new version will also have a backup password feature for system access if a password is forgotten.
For the most part, logging in with a fingerprint is quick and easy. It's nice that users do not have to place the finger in the same position on the sensor every time. The sensor seems to be sensitive to oil on its surface, though.
After a handful of captures, we got a message telling us to clean the sensor, and the message popped up on a fairly regular basis after a number of captures without cleaning.
We recommend the ID Mouse Professional to any agency interested in a simple way to add a layer of security to its PC force. It's the most user-friendly biometric mouse we've reviewed, and we love the smooth movement an optical mouse provides.