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There is one thing that both credit union employees and credit union Information Technology department staff can always agree upon – they both hate passwords. Despite all of the advances made in technology over the past three decades, most networks around the world continue to rely on a century’s old, insecure, user unfriendly technology: the password. Users hate passwords because they are time-consuming to use and difficult to remember. Security professionals hate passwords because they are easily guessed or stolen. Ironically, the harder it is to steal or guess a password, the harder it is to remember, as well.
Biometric technologies bypass this dilemma by relying on unique physical characteristics, rather than a shared secret, to authenticate users. One progressive credit union - Middletown, CT-based Middlesex Credit Union – has chosen to break out of the outdated password paradigm and move into the 21st century with the latest fingerprint biometric technology from an industry leader: ProfitStars.
Like most credit union chief information officers, Middlesex Credit Union’s Joe Szumowski was looking for a practical – and affordable – alternative to the much-hated password. “My staff was spending a lot of time on re-setting passwords,” explains Joe. “We really needed to replace this cumbersome process.”
With more than 15 years experience in the IT world, Joe knew that authentication is not just a simple process, but a system that touches most of the pieces of his network in some way. Therefore, he took a measured and systematic approach to finding a replacement to passwords. He notes that “we looked at tokens, smart cards, iris scanning and other biometric technologies. During the course of our research I found ProfitStars and they had everything we needed at a price point that we could afford.” He especially liked ProfitStars’ close ties with his core data processing system: the Episys® system from Symitar™ – the world’s most popular credit union data processing system. Joe confides that “we really like to stay within the realm of products that have a tight integration with Symitar.”
Because any biometric system must take both operating systems and software applications into account, either to effectively replace, interface with or avoid disrupting them, Joe took a careful approach in rolling out the new Biodentify® Biometric Security to Middlesex’s four branches and 50 employees. Joe emphasizes that “we tested the software and fingerprint pads for a full two months before we went live.”
He enthuses that “it was an absolutely great rollout. The training and documentation were excellent.” ProfitStars even sent out one of their top developers to assist the credit union in its implementation! The fingerprint logins went extremely well with Windows® domain and the Episys core system, and quickly expanded to other application such as the ADP payroll and human resources platform.
With any new technology, some employees are going to be reticent about using it. The same was true for the Biodentify system – a handful of staff members were nervous about using their fingerprint for identification purposes. However, when it was explained to them that their fingerprints are simply reduced to a mathematical template containing data unique to a given individual, but which cannot be used to recreate an image or facsimile, their worries vanished.
According to Joe, “Our employees love the Biodentify system because it saves them time and effort and it is far easier to use than trying to remember five to 10 different passwords.” He adds that “Biodentify is easy to deploy to the desktop and we have not had any issues with fingerprint pads at all.”
According to industry analysts like Gartner, Giga and Forrester, re-setting users’ forgotten passwords costs IT departments an average of $25 per call. With high costs like this, Middlesex Credit Union should enjoy a fast ROI now that their biometric system is in place at all desktops. Because the authenticating factor is a part of the user’s body, there is nothing for him/her to forget or lose. When the employee leaves their PC, he/she simply touches the pad to lock his/her desktop, and walk away confident that no one can access his/her files. Joe points out an added benefit: “the NCUA examiners and auditors are more closely monitoring security these days, and our Biodentify system shows that we are serious about security and performing due diligence.”
In many people’s minds, biometric technologies are the very essence of high-tech security, and everyone knows that no super secret headquarters worth its salt is without its share of biometric devices. But biometrics has extended its reach - it’s not just for government agencies and large corporations anymore. The bottom line is that biometrics improves ease of use and reduces user support costs while securing networks against all but the most formidable attackers. Joe concludes that “it has been a very easy and gratifying process for us. I wouldn’t hesitate recommending the Biodentify system to anyone.”