DigitalPersona Personal Premium
by Frank J. Harris - Wednesday, 7 October 2009.
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Since 1996, DigitalPersona delivers products that enable commercial enterprises, hardware OEMs, software ISVs and consumers to use fingerprint biometrics to secure their identities. DigitalPersona Personal is a software solution aimed to home and small office users. The application I have tested came bundled with the company's U.are.U 4500 Reader - a small, yet powerful USB fingerprint reader. The software version I have used was DigitalPersona Personal 4.0 running on a Windows XP PC.



Installation

Currently, DigitalPersona Personal software works just on Windows operating systems. The application is installed using the software CD included in the product box. The company is selling the software application both as a standalone product and as a "Premium" package that contains the fingerprint reader (as previously mentioned).

The installation is pretty straightforward. Just follow the screen instructions and plugin the USB device when needed.



Getting started

After a successful installation, you need to do some initial customization to generate your user profile. To build your identity you have to choose the Windows account to "pair" it with and then go through the process of capturing your fingerprints.

The USB reader works immaculately - in over three weeks of usage, fingerprint recognition was 100% successful. Recording your fingerprints for the first time is a no-frills procedure which will take just a couple of minutes of your time.



Windows logon

Logging into your Windows computer using your fingerprint is definitely a step up in security for every PC user. While passwords are easy to figure out, getting your biometric information is much tougher. I am not saying this is impossible, as we are all familiar with biometric bypass techniques. I'm just saying that using a fingerprint instead of a password is definitely a more secure option.

If the USB fingerprint reader is connected to the computer, the Windows logon screen will show a new widget which opens up the possibility of using the identity you just setup for successfull authorization.



Secure password repository

DigitalPersona software offers the possibility of storing web site passwords, as well as using them for the automatic (when authorized) login procedures in recognized sites.



There are two ways of setting up your passwords:

1) Manual input or import

After starting DigitalPersona application, you can manually write in a list of web sites, usernames and passwords. If you have a previous backup or an export of the DigitalPersona password database, you will be able import the proprietary .dpxd file (Online Account Data).

2) Automatic - recommended way

When DigitalPersona is running on your computer, navigating your browser to any login page will show a fingerprint icon next to the form. If the fingerprint has a green plus sign over it, it means that this username/password combination is not yet stored in your database and that you can save it right now. This is done by filling the form and placing your finger on the fingerprint reader.



If you just navigated to a web site for which user credentials are already stored in the database, just authorize with your finger and you will automatically get logged into your account.

The software application also contains a "Security Check", a quick and simple function that analyzes your passwords and determines and indicates their strength, adding to this "report" some tips on protecting your personal information.

File Protection

File Protection is an additional application that can get installed from the software CD (if you have DigitalPersona Personal with File Protection), or you can buy it from their online store.

When the application is installed, right-clicking any file or folder will now present a new option - "Encrypt Files". Chose a file to encrypt, place your finger on the scanner and that's it - crypto comes in play.



Technical specs

In case you are wondering, here are the technical specifications for the U.are.U 4500 Reader:
  • Pixel resolution: 512 dpi (average x, y over the scan area)
  • Scan capture area: 14.6 mm (nom. width at center) 18.1 mm (nom. length)
  • 8-bit grayscale (256 levels of gray)
  • Reader size (approximate): 65 mm x 36 mm x 15.56 mm
  • Compatible with USB 1.0, 1.1 and 2.0 (Full Speed) specifications
Final thoughts

In a combination with U.are.U 4500 Reader, DigitalPersona Personal provides home and SOHO users with a good security mechanism for securing both their offline and online identities. It eliminates the need for writing down or memorizing loads of passwords and ensures that you are the only one who can access specific private data, use personal and business passwords and logon to your Windows computer.



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