August 03, 2001, 12:00 AM — 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
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 http://www.verivoice.com.
Finally, the BioAPI Consortium was established to help developers
integrate biometric identification into existing standards and APIs.
Read more about the BioAPI Consortium here: http://www.bioapi.org.
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.