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F & F


Community College Implements Thumbprint Security
posted by justfred on Tuesday August 06, @08:50AM
from the thumbs-up-or-thumbs-down-for-thumbprint-security? dept.
Security Des Moines Area Community College's security plan to implement a thumbprint login process on campus computers has triggered some reaction by privacy activists, Wired reports. To address security concerns, as well as problems with students and staff forgetting their passwords, the community college- located in West Des Moines, Iowa- is installing computer mice with thumbprint scanners. The school will also institute a mandatory policy requiring all faculty and students submit their thumbprints for the system.

Dean Tony Paustian said, "This offers more protection for the individual than just having numbers and passwords. Basically, our system will be no less secure than what a government or military system would have."

Privacy activists, however, disagree.

"To use (a thumbprint) by itself in an authentification environment is just asking for trouble," said Lauren Weinstein, creator and moderator of the Privacy Forum. He added that lifting thumbprints could also be easier than cracking a password. In support of his claim, several privacy experts cited a recent case where a Japanese researcher cracked 80% of fingerprint scanners by lifting a print, then manufacturing a fake finger from gelatin.

"Passwords can be changed," Weinstein said. "People don't really realize what the ramifications would be for the misuse of that data because we haven't had a lot of experience with that (situation)."

"What do you do when somebody's biometric information is compromised?" he said. "Do you have them go out and get a new thumb? Getting a replacement thumb is expensive and painful."

Computer security consultant Richard Smith said that asking students to log in with a print is not a danger by itself, but added, "One identifier (like a thumbprint) would make it easier to link databases, like credit card information, etc., together. There's always this concern that when you start matching up these databases, you can find out a lot about the individual."

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    Community College Implements Thumbprint Security | Login/Create an Account | Top | 1 comments | Search Discussion
    The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.
    No need for this kind of security, indeed ... (Score:1)
    by crispy on Tuesday August 06, @02:26PM (#190)
    User #300 Info

    The most benefit I can see to the consumers (faculty and students) is one of convenience. If this were the only motivator, then it would be instituted as optional and then spread as it gains acceptance.

    The need for it to be voluntary is accentuated by such questions as: so no one will be able to log in remotely? If so, they will need to have specialized hardware wherever they happen to be logging in from? (In all seriousness) How about students with no thumbs? Would it run afoul of the ADA [usdoj.gov] to deny computing services to a student that physically lacks the ability to authenticate? There will need to be a way around the biometric, so why not make it voluntary?

    The most compelling answer I think is what the administration gains: undeniable non-repudiation of all the activities that happen on their systems (unless there's room for Jello [cryptome.org] - and there's always room for Jello).

    Either that, or Tony Paustian has a cousin in the biometric-mouse industry

    Humanity has the stars in its future, and that future is too important to be lost under the burden of juvenile folly and ignorant superstition. - Isaac Asimov

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