BioNetrix simplifies security

If you’re spending too much of your staff time and budget managing passwords, tokens or other authentication methods, consider the latest offering from BioNetrix. The start-up is offering a software package that provides an open platform for managing different types of authentication.

The software can help companies migrate to password alternatives such as biometrics. In addition, BioNetrix officials say the company’s client/server software package can reduce password administration costs by as much as 30 per cent. That’s a significant savings for large enterprises, which spend as much as US$340 per year, per user on resetting passwords, according to Gartner Group Inc., an IT consultancy in Stamford, Conn.

The BioNetrix Authentication Suite lets network managers set up and administer all authentication systems in the enterprise from one console. The software supports passwords, smart cards, tokens, digital signatures, fingerprint scanners, retina scanners, and face and voice recognition systems. It can integrate with enterprise software applications from SAP, PeopleSoft, Lotus, Oracle and Check Point. The BioNetrix software can be managed from a single console or distributed across several machines to avoid a single point of failure.

The BioNetrix Authentication Suite consists of three parts:

BioClient, which resides on the desktop and communicates with the BioServer software for authentication management. It runs on Windows platforms, but a Unix version is due out early next year.

BioServer, which resides on the server and handles authentication needs for enterprise applications. It runs on Windows NT, but Unix and Linux versions are due out early next year.

BioPolicy Engine, which also resides on the server and lets the network manager set authentication policies for applications, workgroups and individuals. Policies can change depending on whether the employee is in the office or working remotely.

BioNetrix is targeting four markets for the software: financial services, pharmaceuticals, government and utilities. Although the software is just being announced, it has been tested in pilot projects over the past several months and is currently in Version 3.0.

One user of the suite is, the electronic commerce arm of Drug Emporium Inc., a pharmacy chain. The Web-based subsidiary is testing an application that puts pagers with built-in fingerprint scanners in the hands of physicians and allows them to order prescriptions over the Internet. To meet state regulations, the system must ensure confidentiality of the information as well as biometric verification of the doctor and the pharmacy. The Web site is using the BioNetrix software to handle the authentication for the system, says Matthew Erick, director of pharmacy operations.

“In picking BioNetrix, we felt they had one of the best devices to ensure security,” Erick says. “The system allows us to identify that the prescription was received by a licensed pharmacy and that the doctor is who he says he is.”

Erick says the BioNetrix software offers flexibility in terms of the biometric devices it supports. “There’s not just one component. It supports fingerprint or retinal scanning, so we can meet different requirements in different states,” he adds.

The BioNetrix Authentication Suite costs about US$50 per user. A Biometric Starter Kit, which sells for US$2,500, features the BioNetrix authentication software as well as two fingerprint, voice and face recognition devices.

Until now, 2-year-old BioNetrix has been operating in stealth mode, formally launching itself and its product this month. Nonetheless, it has attracted the attention of security luminaries. Steve Walker, founder of Trusted Information Systems, sits on the company’s board of directors, as does Cybercash founder Bill Melton.

BioNetrix appears to have carved out a hot niche. Frost & Sullivan, a Mountain View, Calif. market research firm, estimates the user authentication and biometric market will nearly triple between now and 2002, when the market is expected to be worth more than US$4 billion. Software such as the BioNetrix Authentication Suite is expected to become more attractive to enterprise customers as biometric devices become integrated in standard computer keyboards and laptops.

“We think that in three to five years, biometric devices are going to be fairly pervasive,” says Pete Bianco, co-founder and CEO of BioNetrix. Bianco says BioNetrix’ software suite “allows users to migrate to the future.”

BioNetrix is at