Keeping Data Secure With Biometrics

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Fingerprint readers have been offered as PC peripherals since the late 1980s, but have never caught on, says Jim Wayman, a biometrics expert. That didn't sway Apricorn Inc. from releasing Aegis Bio, a new portable biometric hard drive that accesses encrypted data after validating a fingerprint. Also portable is Microsoft Corp.'s timeless Natural Ergonomic Keyboard, updated with radio technology to make it free of wires. Microsoft's peripheral adversary, Logitech Inc., threw a small surprise by changing gears and launching notebook accessories -- the sleek Kinetik laptop cases and Alto laptop stands -- aimed at everyday users.

Bio portable hard drive

For those seeking the portable data protection, Apricorn Inc.'s Aegis Bio biometric portable hard drive may be worth a gander. Swiping your finger over a fingerprint reader provides access to encrypted data on the hard drive. Software that comes with the drive registers three fingerprints, and any finger can be swiped to access data on the drive.

If the drive's biometric technology gets damaged, a password feature allows administrators to log in and access encrypted data. The drive incorporates biometric technology from UPEK Inc., whose fingerprint reader to authenticate and secure personal data, Eikon Digital Privacy Manager, is available in the U.S. for US$39.99.

Biometric technology may not prevent hardware theft, but it does prevent data theft, said Jim Wayman, a biometrics expert and professor at San Jose State University. He secures neither his laptops nor PC with biometric technology. "My primary concern is machine theft, not information theft. Biometrics cannot prevent theft of the machine," he said. Apricorn's strong 128-bit authentication prevents theft of sensitive data, according to the company.

The drive is sturdy, small and portable, weighing 5.5 ounces (156 grams) and measuring 19 mm by 84.5 mm by 120 mm (0.75 inches by 3.3 inches by 4.7 inches). However, it does not include cloning software, important for some users to coordinate data backup between a hard drive and portable storage. The combination of biometric and encryption technology could lead cloning software to "overwrite everything on the destination drive," so it isn't a fit for the package, said Craig Christensen, national sales manager at Apricorn Inc. Based on customer feedback, cloning software could be included in future drives, he said.

Starting at $199 for 80G bytes of storage, the drives are available on Apricorn's Web site and through retailers.

Microsoft unwires ergonomic keyboard

Microsoft recently slipped in a wireless update to its venerable ergonomic keyboard into a new desktop system, the Natural Ergonomic Desktop 7000. Grabbing the original design of the Natural Ergonomic Keyboards, Microsoft added 2.4GHz radio technology that allows the keyboard to connect wirelessly to a transceiver attached to a PC up to 30 feet afar. Two AA batteries give the keyboard a lifespan of nine months, a Microsoft spokeswoman said. Indicators on the keyboard show the battery life. Updated keys also make the keyboard Vista friendly.

The keyboard's gull wing, split-design brings keys closer to users' fingers, and an optional foamed palm rest adds comfort to the wrist when typing. The design keeps the wrist parallel to a user's natural body state, and fingers maintain their natural curl when typing. The design makes typing more comfortable and reduces chances of carpal tunnel problems, according to Microsoft.

The wireless keyboard is not available as a stand-alone product, so it has to be purchased as part of the desktop system, which includes the Natural Wireless Laser Mouse 7000. The $149.95 desktop system will ship in July.

Logitech's new target: Notebooks

Known for input devices and gaming peripherals, Logitech went for the jugular and expanded its stable of notebook peripherals with the release of the Kinetik line of notebook cases, and Alto line of notebook stands.

As the names indicate, the Kinetik 15.4 Backpack and Kinetik 15.4 Briefcase fit 15.4-inch notebooks in sleek molded-foam cases that protect laptops from bumps and bruises. The cases -- which have bays and compartments for accessories and documents -- also fit smaller laptops and the 17-inch MacBook Pro laptop from Apple Inc. The $99 cases will ship in the U.S. in September.

Logitech also added two laptop stands -- Alto Express and Alto Connect. With its curved design and translucent construction, the $29.99 Alto Express is a good and cheap option to adjust laptops on desks for daily chores like checking e-mail and surfing the Internet. The $79.99 Alto Connect comes in the X-shape design with rubber bumpers and includes four USB (Universal Serial Bus) ports to connect additional devices to a notebook. Both will ship in July.

Electronic ornithology

"Fly robin fly, up up to the sky," went a song from German band Silver Convention in 1975, the lyrics forcing a bird to wing it. While the robot birds from Dynamism don't fly, they do let out lively chirps when petted. Available in ten species on's Web site for $29 apiece, these sprightly delights make for cute decoration too. Hopefully, these birds will really fly one day!

The Tornado

Transferring data from one PC to another is a breeze with "The Tornado," a mellow file transferring tool from Data Drive Thru Inc. After wires are pulled from Tornado's retractor to connect PCs, software automatically pops up on both PCs that allows for file transfers between both systems. No drivers need to be installed and no networking cables are needed. The $59.95 contraption is available on Tornado's Web site.

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