PCMCIA Password Manager: Fingerprint Reader for Notebooks

Your average laptop user has a dozen and a half passwords, and can’t remember all of them. They keep their passwords and logins stored-or scribbled-on scraps of paper, strewn throughout their office at work like candy wrappers. But what happens if they’re on the road? Joe Soap just gives up and checks his personal e-mail, the one password he can remember.

Not the next generation of hard-working notebook users. They turn to their new PCMCIA personal fingerprint reader, or PCMCIA Password Manager – from American Power Conversion. Fingerprint scanners have been around for a while, and biometric security may still be mostly talk and not a lot of use, but it will definitely take hold if companies like APC continue putting out advanced products.

The theory behind it is so simple it no longer seems like biometric science fiction. The scanner fits snugly into the PCMCIA, (Personal Computer Memory Card International Association) slot of a notebook computer. Whenever you’re confronted by a login prompt, the fingerprint sensor can be ejected out of the side of your laptop. You place your finger in it, and the device’s software matches your fingerprint with pre-saved login info.

Can this system be trusted? As far as reading fingerprints, it seems to be. It reads the “true” fingerprint underneath the first layers of your skin, so it can read through dry, dead skin, calluses, blisters, oil, dirt, and other crud, natural or otherwise.

As far as storing the proper information, the PCMCIA unit can store up to 20 different user fingerprints, with an unlimited number of passwords and user ids for each. As far as security, the device is geared for fast user switches, to avoid confusion if people are sharing the laptop. Plus, the Windows-compliant software provides one-touch folder encryption and decryption.

As far as somebody cutting off your finger and using it to steal your files, there’s probably some sort of insurance to protect against that.

But for businesses and individuals looking to take the step into the 21st century of security and system access, the PCMCIA fingerprint reader is it. At $149.99 retail, the device doesn’t carry as much the price tag you’d expect for something out of a science fiction movie.

Related articles:

Palm vein security built into Fujitsu laptops?

Compaq NX6125 with fingerprint sensor

By Matthew Brodsky

Monday, October 24, 2005