One of the features that I’ve been enjoying on my new Fujitsu T4215 Tablet PC is the biometric scanner, and what’s funny is that it wasn’t something I even planned on using. I don’t need no stinkin’ finger scanner! Yeah right…
The fact of the matter is that any time I bring my laptop along anywhere, it’s an open invitation for the wrong person to gain immediate control of my identity. My passwords, contacts, date book, credit cards, sent and received email, IM chat logs, Money files, personal photos, and even my personal journal’s sporadic musings and rants – all of them on there and easily accessible. While it’s true that some of my laptop’s data is protected by password, the majority of its contents aren’t. To make matters worse, many of the items that require passwords are set to automatically recall them when the prompt is displayed. Granted, an administrative password would help solve this problem…but I have been known to not set, much less use one.
Brilliant. I know.
So fast forward to last week…I got the Fujitsu, and I quickly realized that this device was something I was going to bond with. Nooo, I haven’t given the Fuji a name or anything, but I have come to enjoy using it in ways I didn’t expect. Yes, I still sit at my desk, typing on its keyboard. But when I am ready to take a break…I’ll fold the convertible screen down, and it will immediately offer a completely different user experience. In tablet mode I carry the Fuji around in the crook of my arm. I’ll recline on the couch and doodle, I’ll lay in bed and read an eBook, and I can IM or email in my own handwriting. Using the Fuji feels personal, because almost everything about tablet mode is personalized. The entire experience is kind of hard to explain to be honest, but what it boils down to is that I’m already using this thing a lot more than I ever did my laptop – it’s like a combination desktop and Pocket PC.
Just as I was coming to this realization, Allen IM’d and asked if I had set up the Fuji’s fingerprint scanner yet. Pfffft…no, of course not! Why would I need that?! He pointed out that the biometric scanner could be used instead of an admin password when the computer was turned on…and it would also remember application and browser passwords when they were needed. I decided to give the finger scanner another look, and Allen…I owe you one.
The fingerprint scanner is built into the screen casing on the 4215; when it’s in laptop mode the 1/2″ tall reader is on the bottom left of the screen…
…and in tablet mode it’s on the bottom right.
The software that powers the scanner is Softex Incorporated‘s OmniPass (v.3.51.49B), and I figured it would be fun to share it how it works with you all, especially since there are stand-alone 4.0 versions of the program available for or .
Once the software is started, this is the screen that will appear allowing new users to be added or older users to be removed. There is also an option to import encrypted user profiles that have been backed up and stored in another location.
Adding a new user automatically retrieves the name of the signed in session user and the “domain” – which is the computer’s network name. After these entries have been verified, a password should be entered.
OmniPass offers both audio prompts and taskbar tips so that the user will know what to do when the various password scenarios are offered. Full Audio will give responses such as “Access Granted”, and the other prompts are self explanatory.
Taskbar Tips is another way that the user can get their particular level of needed feedback…
…and this is where the user’s authentication device is enrolled; in other words – where fingertip scans are entered.
Checkmarks next to a finger indicate the digits already enrolled, which before I decided to write this article included only each hand’s thumbs and pointers. So I’ll enroll my left pinky next, as indicated by the red arrow…
The finger or thumb being enrolled gets swept across the scanner and read three times…
…and while the capture doesn’t have to be perfect, it does need to include enough digital information for the reader to make positive identification.
The finger or thumb is then scanned one last time, and the verification is finished.
I don’t see myself ever using my middle fingers to sign in, but both hands are now entirely enrolled.
OmniPass can be configured to accept the current windows user as its default, or individual OmniPass users can be set up within a computer profile. This is useful for families that share a computer, but that don’t use separate login identities.
Once the password has been chosen and digits have been enrolled, the Vault Management tab can be accessed by using either the password or finger-swipe entry method.
The fingerprint scanner is clicked by default, but next to it is a password option.
Sweeping an enrolled finger across the scanner will either produce a readable print, as shown by the green box, or an unreadable print, as shown by the red.
Filling in the correct password will also pull an “open sesame”…
The only other biometric reader I used before this was the one on my iPAQ 5455; that one was finicky, to put it mildly. This one…19 times out of 20 it is dead on and the one time it is not – a quick rescan and the finger will be correctly read.
So all that’s left is placing passwords inside the OmniPass program. The way this works is that any time a website or program password prompt is opened on the screen, the OmniPass software will sense that a potential password can be stored. Depending upon the prompts the user has set up, the main steps to take are thus…
Window opens with a username and password prompt, you fill them in; then right click on the key icon in the system tray.
This will pull up a menu, and what’s wanted is the “Remember Password” option.
The minute that option is checked, the cursor will turn into a golden key, which needs to be left-clicked on the password to be stored.
An option will be given to assign the automatically generated password title or a user defined password title, and then the window will close. When in Vault Management inside the OmniPass program, the option of whether or not the site should be entered with authentication can be selected. The password storage process can be repeated every time a site or program that requires one is opened.
Some of the cool things that I have noticed about using biometrics to secure my laptop are that I can shut the lid and walk away – and starting programs up again is as simple as swiping a finger or thumb. Restarts on my computer that would have otherwise required a password now take an quick finger swipe; I no longer have an excuse not to secure my data.
I’ve only had the Fujitsu for about a week, and I would be devastated if it were lost or stolen. While insurance might cover my missing hardware, the peace of mind afforded from knowing that my data is protected “no matter what” is a huge comfort. I can’t imagine buying another PC, tablet or otherwise, that doesn’t include biometric security.
I would love to hear others’ stories about how they are using biometrics to secure their data. Horror stories are welcome as well!