Gates closed on security guard

Microsoft's refusal to participate in the development of platform-independent authentication technology has raised criticism from officials determined to develop security systems everyone can use.

Recent attacks on the global IT industry, such as last week's Love Bug outbreak and a security loophole in free Microsoft email service Hotmail, discovered by hackers this week, have highlighted the need for companies to tighten their PC, server and internet security systems.

According to John Meddows, CEO of local security technology distributor Triton Secure, Microsoft has not yet committed to the development of biometric security based on a platform-independent standard.

Biometrics use a person's physical characteristics, such as fingerprints, retinal pattern or voice, to authenticate use of a desktop or server. The authentication mechanism, while highly secure, is not widely used due to a lack of standard interfaces.

Triton distributes security products made by US vendor SAFLink, a member of the Biometrics Application Protocol Interface (BioAPI) consortium. The BioAPI specification is intended for use across many computing environments, including Windows, Unix and Linux.

Microsoft announced earlier this month that the next version of Windows 2000 would support biometric-based security. However, Microsoft revealed plans to use a proprietary source code for the development of its own biometric security system, Meddows said.

Microsoft's refusal to cooperate in the development of a standard biometrics protocol could see a number of incompatible biometric security standards emerge. If this were the case, a user operating a non-Microsoft program in a Windows environment could be required to implement multiple biometric-based hardware and software products in order to sustain watertight security, Meddows said.

Meanwhile, the BioAPI consortium said in a statement it was "disappointed" in Microsoft's refusal to include royalty-free BioAPI specifications in its next version of Windows.

The BioAPI consortium's 51 members include Intel, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard and Unisys.

Microsoft Australia was unavailable for comment.

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