CEBIT - Visionics: Merge building, network security

What if you could gain access to your company's building and its IT network through the same security system, using your face or a fingerprint to identify yourself both at the doorway and when logging in at your PC?

For a simpler and more secure operation, network administrators should join forces with their corporate security departments to create a common identification system, according to a leading supplier of biometric security technology.

Visionics Corp. is best known for supplying facial recognition systems to customers such as police departments, airports, and banks. But it also hopes to encourage enterprise customers of all sizes to use a single identification system for various functions such as network security and door access, Frances Zelazny, the company's director of corporate communications, said in an interview here Thursday.

Network administrators can maintain better control of their systems with facial recognition, even using a police-like list of "banned" faces in order to prevent former employees from gaining access, she said.

A major client for such an integrated security system is Intel Corp., which has contracted with Visionics to supply a complete package of biometric corporate ID, access control, surveillance, and information security systems.

While Visionics has been working with Intel "for quite a while," Visionics has only been able to comment about it since the chip maker went public with the project last month at the Security Industry Association (SIA) Forum in Tampa, Florida, Zelazny said.

At that event, Allen D. Rude, Intel's corporate security systems product manager, urged the industry to provide converged rather than stand-alone systems for different security applications within the same company.

"This is critical to provide the level of security that industry, transportation, government and event holders require in order to maintain a safe and secure environment," Rude said, according to a partial transcript provided by Visionics.

Intel has already enrolled all of its employees in the new system, created biometric templates for their faces, and issued new ID badges containing wireless RF (radio frequency) chips, Zelazny said. Certain sensitive installations within the company will check identity with both passive facial recognition plus another, active form of biometric identification yet to be revealed, she said, though she noted that the active technique most commonly in use is fingerprint identification.

But some observers are skeptical about a single framework for both IT network and building-access security.

"So far these systems are not integrated because you basically have two islands," said Christian Lützow, a marketing executive with Dermalog Identification Systems GmbH, a Hamburg, Germany-based maker of fingerprint identification technology.

A biometric network security system, he said, stores its access-control data in the same place as a traditional, password-based system: on the network. "But that's not the same place where (building) access control is stored. It's very, very difficult. It would be helpful if those companies who are doing access control and network control were the same, but they really are two planets."

Zelazny said Visionics will be able to make more progress toward integrating the two functions thanks to its pending merger, announced in February, with Identix Inc., a specialist in fingerprint-based security identification, based in Los Gatos, California.

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