Combining Physical and Virtual Security

Using biometrics also allows physical security and information security to converge into a unified security strategy. Politec, an international IT organization based in Brazil, became involved with identity management when it established a presence in the United States in the late 1990s. On the biometric side, Politec initially worked with iris scans.

''You couldn't make a whole business on biometrics a few years ago,'' said Politec president Robert Nichels. So Politec began working on the infrastructure side of identity management, bringing in Computer Associates and its eTrust Identity and Access Management Suite nearly two years ago.

''For most of our customers, it's beneficial to employ the infrastructure first. The return on investment is in SSO and user provisioning. Biometrics are additional security.''

By adding the iris scan technology to the eTrust software platform, Politec has created what it calls ''door-to-desktop'' identity management. Using a single registration of a user's iris and eTrust as the core platform, users can be authenticated when they walk through doors and log-on to networks using cameras at the doors and computers. There are also the additional benefits of audit trails.

Much like the security of yesteryear that meant being physically present, door-to-dektop security can ensure you are in the building before you log on because it can integrate presence with network security.

''You can't log-in if you haven't walked through the door,'' Nichels said.

In addition to using iris scans, Politec has experience in using fingerprints and hand geometry biometrics, and Nichels said the preferred method of authenticating identity may eventually depend on the client's industry. So far, Politec has focused on healthcare, but the company is beginning to explore opportunities in financial services.

As new technology behind physical security is drawn more to the IT side of the business, Nichels said he expects the two historically separate environments to converge, with biometrics playing a role as the authentication technology.

While the addition of readers and cameras to doors and desktop computer systems will require additional investment, you can put a price on security. Software and networks that aren't secure often aren't used to their potential, and that is money going down the drain.

-- From Intranet Journal