Biometric Systems

The traditional method of password-based user authentication is

susceptible to fraud and abuse. Biometry is a rapidly growing field

that develops authentication algorithms and tools that rely on

biological characteristics to authenticate users' identity. Fingerprint

matching is the most common biometric authentication technique.

Fingerprints recognition systems are now reliable and affordable,

starting at about a hundred dollars for a basic configuration. Voice

recognition, vein layout, facial structure, and retina and iris

patterns are also used in biometric systems. Each of these biometric

authentication methods has its advantages and disadvantages. For

instance, retinal recognition systems are virtually infallible. They

offer an exceedingly high degree of accuracy; however, they cannot

authenticate blind and partially blind users. Likewise, voice

recognition systems will fail to identify a user suffering from cold or


Privacy Issues

Biometric access control systems offer a high degree of assurance.

However, they raise privacy issues. For instance, in order to use a

retinal scanner, a biometric system must store users' retina patterns

in a database. A retinal pattern can reveal many hereditary diseases,

signs of drug abuse, and even AIDS. Who can guarantee that such a

database never reaches the hands of health and law authorities?

Resources and Products

Several Linux-compatible biometric access control projects and

production systems are currently available.

* The Ankari company develops a mouse that reads fingertips. You

can find more information about their technology at

* IrisScan is a network biometric authentication system for LANs

that identify users by their retinal pattern. You can read more

on IrisScan and iris scanning technology at

* VeriVoice is a voice recognition system that operates on Linux

2.0 and above. To learn more about voice recognition technology

and VeriVoice products, visit

Finally, the BioAPI Consortium was established to help developers

integrate biometric identification into existing standards and APIs.

Read more about the BioAPI Consortium here:



A reader contacted me regarding one of the journaling systems discussed

weeks ago, claiming that it had corrupted his file system. I would

therefore like to emphasize that references to products given in this

newsletter shouldn't be taken as a recommendation or endorsement of any

kind. Furthermore, considering the vast number of Linux distributions,

hardware architectures, and kernel versions, it's nearly impossible to

predict the behavior of new software on a particular configuration.

Therefore, you should always backup your system before installing new


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