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The Basics of Biometrics for Computer Security

By Randy Bragg

Biometrics is a type of verification that can be used for authentication when using computers for a variety of purposes. In the past, the common perception of biometrics was that they were limited to use by government facilities and high security areas. However, biometrics are becoming more prevalent in day-to-day applications such as log-in access for POS work stations, access control, and a variety of other uses. Some of the more common uses are:

1) Time clocks - Many time clocks are now designed for the potential use of biometrics for employee clock in and clock out. The most common types currently use a thumb print or fingerprint to verify the employee when clocking in/out.

2) Point-of-sale sign-in/out - Many point-of-sale systems are now integrating the use of biometrics for user sign-in and out. The thought behind this is that it eliminates the need for employees to either (1) carry a magnetic swipe card or (2) remember a password.

3) Computer log-in/out - Many computers (especially laptops) are now integrating some type of biometric control for the purpose of logging in and out. Most new laptops now have an index finger or thumb print scanner built in.

4) Alarm activation/deactivation - Biometrics are being integrated into many alarm panels for the purpose of activating or deactivating an alarm. When a person arrives or leaves a certain location, they could use a biometric scanner instead of a password to activate or deactivate the alarm.

5) General access to doors/buildings/etc. - Biometrics can be used for basic access control to any building, door, room, etc. Many types of locks and access control devices now use one or more biometric controls to allow access.

Biometrics can be used for many security-related functions such as time clock sign in/out, computer sign in/out, point-of-sale system access and general access control. While biometrics will be used more and more in the future, there are several issues that must be addressed including potential errors, privacy concerns and the security of the actual biometric images.

Randy Bragg is CEO of Brownstone Technology Solutions. BTS specializes in integrated systems for the restaurant and bar, hotel and motel, retail and manufacturing industries.

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