Skip Maine state header navigation
A Publication Featuring The Information Services Technology of Maine State Government
|Volume VIII, Issue 1||January/February 2005|
By Jim Twomey and Paul Sawyer
In todays security conscious environment, passwords dont provide the level of protection or identification that enterprise organizations demand. Not only can passwords be compromised, stolen, or simply forgotten, but password-based security can also frustrate users and consume untold hours of Help Desk and facilities support, costing your organization productivity and resources.
Biometrics is the science and technology of authentication (i.e. establishing the identity of an individual) by measuring the person's physiological or behavioral features. The term is derived from the Greek words "bios" for life and "metron" for degree.
In information technology (IT), biometrics usually refers to technologies for measuring and analyzing human physiological characteristics such as fingerprints, eye retinas and irises, voice patterns, facial patterns, and hand measurements, especially for authentication purposes. Source: Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biometrics
One of the Department of Professional and Financial Regulations (PFR) organizational goals was to achieve and maintain a security posture that reduces risk levels associated with information security to an acceptable level. In addition to business-specific risks, PFR looked to meet or exceed both regulatory standards and the level of data security stipulated in contractual agreements and State policies.
To achieve these goals, PFR worked with CBE/ValCom to choose a biometric authentication solution to deliver a system that provides for highly secure end user access controls and authentication. Biometrics provide additional benefits such as reducing the cost of supporting end users particularly as it relates to password lock-outs and resets. In addition, the solution can lead to significant productivity gains for each end user, by eliminating downtime associated with the manual password entry authentication (estimated to be 44 hours/year/user on average according to leading industry research), and by virtually eliminating end user productivity losses during password lock-out scenarios.
The solution consisted of finger scanning biometric devices and middleware from SAFLINK. SAFLINKs non-proprietary approach allowed PFR the freedom to choose from different biometric technologies as well as more than 40 biometric hardware devices. This non-proprietary approach was taken advantage of since PFR soon found that no one biometric device works for all employees. More than one type of biometric device had to be brought in and validated for all employees unique fingerprints to be recognized successfully.
One concern faced during the project rollout was end user belief that an actual fingerprint was being stored. What occurs during the scanning is that a mathematical equation is created based on points on the fingerprint. These points are called minutiae points. The only thing stored is the mathematical equation. It is impossible to recreate an actual fingerprint from the data points stored by the software.
CBE/ValCom continues to work with PFR and the Office of Information Technology in order to create a standard-based security infrastructure. CBE/ValCom, and its security division Firetower (www.firetower.com) is pleased to partner with the State of Maine on these emerging and critical security related projects.
Questions? Contact the authors. Jim Twomey is an Account Manager at CBE ValCom in South Portland. Contact him by calling 207-239-3092 or e-mailing email@example.com. Jim has worked for CBE/ValCom for 5 years, and has been on the dedicated State of Maine Account Team for the past 4 years. Jim resides in Portland.
Paul A. Sawyer, Agency Technology Officer for PFR, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions. Paul started work with Maine State government in 1969. He and his wife Kim live in Augusta, and make frequent trips to Phoenix to visit their granddaughter Jocelyn, and son Ryan, who is stationed at Luke Air Force Base.