Centralizing Credential Management with Biometrics
- By Phil Scarfo
- Jan 30, 2012
Ask yourself. Would your organization like to have a system that offers quick, easy access for authorized users to enter specific locales or use particular data sets and which can also enforce and document compliance with your policies and procedures? In today’s complex world, however, your authorized users are probably forced to remember multiple passwords and carry different forms of credentials for various applications.
Today, an enterprise single sign-on (ESSO) system, used in consort with the latest generation of biometric sensors, provides a better, more convenient and secure solution. Organizations realize that security is a must but security solutions cannot interfere with employees doing their jobs effectively, efficiently and safely. With a biometrically-enabled ESSO, one simple enrollment allows multiple uses across the whole enterprise. This holistic view of enterprise security is vital and provides an integrated identity management system that is much more reliable and cost-effective as it eliminates the problems of having multiple identities tracked over an ever-increasing number of disconnected access points.
A biometrically-enabled ESSO eliminates end-user frustrations with multiple passwords and lost tokens. Investing in an ESSO with a biometric both consolidates multiple applications into one location and completes a facility’s enterprise security by merging all authentication needs to a single finger.
Biometrically-enabled electronic software suites further leverage the advantages of biometrics. With the simple touch of a finger, users can log into data systems, sign charts, “break glass” on specially-designated records and provide an irrefutable audit trail allowing for a wide range of applications.
For many years, the promise of biometrics has not been fully realized because performance in the lab is not representative of performance in the field. The core problem is that conventional biometrics technologies rely on unobstructed and complete contact between the fingerprint and the sensor, a condition that is elusive in the real world, a world that is wet, dry or dirty.
However, that was then; this is now. Multispectral imaging is a sophisticated technology developed to overcome the fingerprint capture problems conventional imaging systems have in less-than-ideal conditions. This more effective technology is based on using multiple spectrums of light and advanced polarization techniques to extract unique fingerprint characteristics from both the surface and subsurface of the skin.
Interestingly, the fingerprint ridges seen on the surface of the finger have their foundation beneath the surface of the skin, in the capillary beds and other sub-dermal structures. The fingerprint ridges we see on our fingertips are merely an echo of the foundational “inner fingerprint.”
Unlike surface fingerprint characteristics, which can be obscured by moisture, dirt or wear, the “inner fingerprint” lies undisturbed and unaltered beneath the surface. When surface fingerprint information is combined with subsurface fingerprint information and reassembled in an intelligent and integrated manner, the results are more consistent, more inclusive and more tamper resistant.
Now biometrics -- which determines that you are you, not what you carry or know -- can be used in more places and more applications for sophisticated, economical credential management. More than 40 million people are already enrolled on multispectral imaging-based systems at locales ranging from the classic door access control situation to the gates of the world’s favorite theme parks.
Healthcare. Biometrics access to drugs, medical records and devices allows doctors, nurses and caregivers to move seamlessly throughout the hospital, do their jobs and not be burdened by multiple logging in and logging out that only wastes valuable time and effort. For example, 2,000 clinicians and staff at Genesis HealthCare in Ohio are currently leveraging multispectral imaging sensors to establish their identity to order, verify or administer medications. A challenge with fingerprint biometrics in this environment is that health care workers frequently wear latex gloves. They must remove the gloves to present the biometric and the ongoing use of the gloves can dry out the skin making it difficult to get a good fingerprint scan. Since multispectral technology captures the fingerprint data from beneath the surface of the skin, it can read the fingerprint through the latex glove.
University Recreation Facilities. In addition to applications requiring the greatest level of security, biometrics ESSO is responding to growing demand for IT administration and controls. Free Amsterdam University (VU), one of Europe’s most prestigious colleges, uses multispectral imaging sensors in fingerprint readers used by approximately 8,000 students, faculty and staff to enter the schools’ multiple recreation facilities spread throughout Amsterdam.
“Eliminating the opportunity for students to pass their cards to others was only part of the reason we upgraded to biometrics,” explains Wouter Kropman, director of facilities at VU. “The system gives us a very professional look plus, in the long run, it saves us money. Within three to five years, the biometric solution becomes a break-even with plastic cards because of their associated costs, including cartridges, printers, support and management. Fingerprints provide a sustainable solution.”
Converged logical and physical access control. Beyond the obvious advantages of biometrically-enabled ESSO for securing access to data, an even greater potential for enterprise security is realized when enterprises combine building access with IT security. No longer are the boundaries between physical access to buildings and data access a rational strategy for protecting corporate assets. A centralized, holistic approach to credential management eliminates the inefficiencies of multiple digital identities, multiple databases, multiple credentials and multiple organizations managing enterprise access.
We have only one real physical identity. Organizations that have intelligently linked the two have provided greater security, accountability and convenience for both administrators and end users.