Hardware developments are not developing rapidly. Biometric systems and smart cards are the only new hardware technologies that are widely impacting security.
The most obvious use of biometrics for network security is for secure workstation logons for a workstation connected to a network. Each workstation requires some software support for biometric identification of the user as well as, depending on the biometric being used, some hardware device. The cost of hardware devices is one thing that may lead to the widespread use of voice biometric security identification, especially among companies and organizations on a low budget. Hardware device such as computer mice with built in thumbprint readers would be the next step up. These devices would be more expensive to implement on several computers, as each machine would require its own hardware device. A biometric mouse, with the software to support it, is available from around $120 in the U.S. The advantage of voice recognition software is that it can be centralized, thus reducing the cost of implementation per machine. At top of the range a centralized voice biometric package can cost up to $50,000 but may be able to manage the secure log‐ in of up to 5000 machines.
The main use of Biometric network security will be to replace the current password system. Maintaining password security can be a major task for even a small organization. Passwords have to be changed every few months and people forget their password or lock themselves out of the system by incorrectly entering their password repeatedly. Very often people write their password down and keep it near their computer. This is of course completely undermines any effort at network security. Biometrics can replace this security identification method. The use of biometric identification stops this problem and while it may be expensive to set up at first, these devices save on administration and user assistance costs.
Smart cards are usually a credit‐card‐sized digital electronic media. The card itself is designed to store encryption keys and other information used in authentication and other identification processes. The main idea behind smart cards is to provide undeniable proof of a user’s identity. Smart cards can be used for everything from logging in to the network to providing secure Web communications and secure e‐mail transactions.
It may seem that smart cards are nothing more than a repository for storing passwords. Obviously, someone can easily steal a smart card from someone else. Fortunately, there are safety features built into smart cards to prevent someone from using a stolen card. Smart cards require anyone who is using them to enter a personal identification number (PIN) before they’ll be granted any level of access into the system. The PIN is similar to the PIN used by ATM machines.
When a user inserts the smart card into the card reader, the smart card prompts the user for a PIN. This PIN was assigned to the user by the administrator at the time the administrator issued the card to the user. Because the PIN is short and
purely numeric, the user should have no trouble remembering it and therefore would be unlikely to write the PIN down.
There are other security issues of the smart card. The smart card is cost‐effective but not as secure as the biometric identification devices.