Security

CIO Jury: Will biometrics replace passwords and PINs?

The 'eyes' have it as IT bosses give fingerprint and iris scanning the thumbs-up

Iris and fingerprint-scanning technology will replace passwords and PIN numbers as the long-term answer to identity management problems, according to UK IT chiefs.

An overwhelming majority of IT bosses - 11 out of the 12-man silicon.com CIO Jury IT user panel - predicted biometrics will overcome the current technical and standards issues to be a more user-friendly and secure alternative to passwords.

Kevin Fitzpatrick, CTO at Manpower, said: "As a user of an IBM fingerprint protected laptop, I am a convert. It provides quick and secure access. The advantages of biometrics are for truly mission critical security and/or ease of access. When these apply we will see growth."

Biometrics will replace passwords in many institutions in the next 18 months via fingerprint recognition for authenticated sign-on and via iris and facial recognition for physical building access, according to Graham Yellowley, director of technology at Mitsubishi UFJ Securities International.

He said: "Bloomberg have already deployed a biometric keyboard to authenticate users and many institutions are looking at implementing fingerprint recognition to provide a fully authenticated sign-on, though this will not be the single sign-on that most firms are aspiring to."

Mark Devine, IT director at ACCA, said: "It is generally accepted that technology will deliver a useable quad-band/G3/PDA/television/MP3 that works in the jungle or the desert and is also waterproof to 200m. Given this level of micro-electronics and processing ability is there any doubt that current issues with biometrics will be overcome? Thereafter, like most pervasive technology, it's a matter of cultural resistance."

Paul Broome, IT director at 192.com said biometrics are preferable to Bill Gates' vision that Microsoft will aggregate a users' passwords and account information with a new product called InfoCard.

Broome said: "Yet more mirth from Microsoft regarding security - we will trust them to roll up and hold all our passwords? It's more secure writing them on your shirt cuffs."

A slightly more sci-fi vision of a biometrics future was painted by Nick Clark, director of IT services at Tower Hamlets College.

He said: "In the longer term I expect identity will be via an implant, and we will be connected permanently to the net. I don't mean a Borg collective consciousness as we will all be individuals. It's going to be just like the mobile phone, creeping into our lives until we think we can't do without it and so won't even think of disconnecting."

But Neil Hammond, IT director at British Sugar, said he favours existing identity management technology over the "Hollywood glamour factor" of biometrics.

Hammond said: "I can't see biometrics replacing user ID and password as the basic mechanism for routine security because that is easy to set up and administer. For more secure identification I still see the tried and trusted Secure ID token as the preferred mechanism for a while yet."

Today's CIO Jury was...

Paul Broome, IT director, 192.com
Nick Clark, director of IT services, Tower Hamlets College
Colin Cobain, IT director, Tesco
Mark Devine, IT director, ACCA
Michael Elliot, IT director, Hasbro
Kevin Fitzpatrick, CTO, Manpower
Mark Foulsham, CIO, eSure
Neil Hammond, IT director, British Sugar
Rory O'Boyle, head of IT, The Football Association
Jacques Rene, director of IT and projects, Airclaims
Davesh Shukla, head of IT, London City Airport
Graham Yellowley, director of technology, Mitsubishi UFJ Securities International

If you are a CIO, IT director or equivalent at a large or small company in the private or public sector and you want to be part of silicon.com's CIO Jury pool, or you know an IT chief who should be, then drop us a line at editorial@silicon.com

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