"On the Internet no one knows you're a dog," goes the caption to a cartoon in New Yorker magazine. Worse, they don't know if you're a thief. But ING Direct Canada, an online bank serving 250,000 customers in Ontario and British Columbia, hopes to provide a new measure of security.
The company is experimenting with a fingerprint-reading mouse in an effort to make sure that the person conducting a transaction is who he says he is. The bank is conducting a pilot program with 400 customers, supplying them with a mouse from SecuGen Corp. (www.secugen.com) and software from Saflink Corp. (www.saflink.com). As a user logs on, the mouse reads the user's thumbprint and transmits it to the bank for verification.
Feedback has been positive, according to chief information officer Brenda Rideout. "Most people think it's really neat, and it works reliably," she says. A pilot program has helped the bank work out several software bugs. Rideout says the bank will absorb the cost of the mouse and its associated software, which she estimates to be $75 per user.
Acer America Corp. (www.acer.com) is also experimenting with fingerprint recognition, using sensors from Veridicom Inc. (www.veridicom.com). Acer plans to install the system as standard equipment on its high-end laptops. "Someone could take your laptop, but your data would be protected," says Arif Maskatia, Acer's vice president of engineering, since the data can't be accessed without fingerprint verification. Now if only the laptop could fingerprint the thief and call the police.