At a Glance
This security utility uses face recognition to let you log on to Windows via webcam.
The future has flying cars, replicators, and computers that
recognize your face and let you log in just by looking at them.
While we may have to wait a bit longer for the cars and the
replicators, we can have face recognition right now, and it’s
surprisingly affordable. I took a look at BioTrust, and it took a
look right back at me.
The first thing I noticed about BioTrust was the sheer heft of
its installer. At over 300MB, it cannot be described as
lightweight. Once installed, though, it did not seem to slow down
my computer or negatively impact performance in any other way.
Since BioTrust replaces Windows’ own log-in dialog, you will
have to reboot your computer immediately after installing. The next
thing you’ll do is enroll your face into the system. The Enrollment
Wizard uses a concept called “scenes,” where each scene is composed
of multiple images of your face from different angles. BioTrust has
you look at different spots on the screen, and takes snapshots of
your face as you turn your head. Its face recognition algorithm is
quite clever: I tried to strike a Dr. Evil pose with my hand on my
chin and a raised eyebrow, but BioTrust would have none of my
shenanigans and simply rejected the images.
Once you’re enrolled, you can log on to Windows by simply
looking at your screen. But BioTrust is sensitive to lighting: if
you originally enrolled at night-time when your office was
relatively dark, you may have trouble logging in during the day.
Don’t worry: If you fail to log-in using your face, you can simply
type your Windows password. Once you successfully log in using your
password, BioTrust offers to save your failed login attempt as a
new “scene”–meaning, it uses your failed attempt to learn more
about you, and so doesn’t fail when you next try to log in under
the same lighting conditions.
Another nice touch is that BioTrust “turns on the light” when
it’s dark. By default, the login screen background is black. But
when there is insufficient light to recognize your face, the
background automatically turns white, effectively transforming your
monitor into a lamp. It was able to recognize my face in a totally
dark room, using nothing but the white background for lighting.
BioTrust also has a built-in password manager, which recognizes
when you log in to a Website and offers to let you log in
biometrically in the future. At the time of this writing, the
password manager is only available for Internet
Explorer, but 3M Cogent tells PCWorld that they’re next
planning to implement support for Firefox, and then
for Chrome. Even under
IE, the password manager doesn’t always work: The vendor claims to
have tested it with a set of 700 common Websites, but when I tried
it with Fiverr.com, it simply did not offer to save my password. I
then tried to log in to Twitter, which BioTrust did detect and
offer to save for future use.
When you navigate to a Website for which you saved your
credentials in BioTrust, a small button appears at the corner of
the IE window. Once you click it, BioTrust tries to recognize your
face. When it succeeds, you are instantly logged on. When I first
tried it, it was a bit sluggish, but on my second attempt it felt
much more responsive.
I like my password managers lean and open-source, so I’ll stick
to KeePass. But when
it comes to logging onto Windows every morning, BioTrust is a
fantastic tool at a great price.
Note: This link takes you to the vendor’s site,
where you can download the latest version of the software.