What You Need to Know About USB Fingerprint Readers

Featured Usb Fingerprint Scanner

Do you hate typing passwords each time you log in to a computer? If this describes you, it will be faster for you to use biometric login. And if your computer doesn’t come with one, you can use a USB fingerprint reader. This USB device is tiny, lightweight, and easy to carry. Being biometric, it offers an extra layer of security that ordinary passwords simply can’t.

To substantiate that, I can’t help but think of an interesting episode from Cobra Kai, the recent successor to The Karate Kid franchise. (The 30-year old rivalry between the two lead characters is exciting to watch.) In this scene, Robby, the truant son of Johnny Lawrence, steals a customer’s laptop. All he has to do is pose as a smug tech executive and ask for the password. After quietly walking away with the device, Robby’s gang quickly sells it on eBay while the gullible customer is relaxing at a Starbucks.

Robby Steals Laptop Cobra Kai Tv Series 1st Season

One has to wonder had this customer enabled fingerprint access on his laptop and knew how to remote wipe it, could it have at least protected him from data theft? Fortunately, it was just a television show, but tech repair scams like this are surprisingly common in the real world.

What Do USB Fingerprint Readers Do?

USB fingerprint readers work with any USB port or docking station to unlock a computer. They are expected to work as plug-and-play devices, which are readily compatible with Windows 7/8/10 systems. Kensington VeriMark and Benss Fingerprint Reader are two highly-rated USB fingerprint readers that do not require external drivers.

Usb Fingerprint Scanners Online

A few other desirable features of these devices include:

  • 360-degree detection: you should be able to log in from any finger angle
  • Support for ten fingerprint IDs: if you are working with Windows Hello or other similar systems, you should be able to register all ten fingers.
  • Compatible with Google, Facebook, Dropbox and Microsoft ID: with a good USB fingerprint device such as Kensington VeriMark, you can not only access your computer but also several online services. In fact, these devices can serve as “tokens” to help you get rid of phone verification on Google.

To set up a USB fingerprint reader on Windows 7/8/10, you need to set up Windows Hello.

Who Does Not Need USB Fingerprint Reader?

If your computer came with a built-in fingerprint scanner, you do not need this gadget. You can check your device’s compatibility online for all known Windows 10 brands. You can simply set up the built-in scanner with Windows Hello.

Macbook Pro and Air users also do not need these scanners because they have Touch ID access on their computers. In fact, despite recent advances in facial detection, Apple is still betting big on fingerprint access for their devices.

Mac Touch Id

Device Failing to Register?

One of the rare problems with USB fingerprint devices is that sometimes they may fail to read the user properly. This is definitely true for me, as I think some people experience this problem more often than others do. With wet or greasy fingers, you are likely to fail authentication more often.

However, the well-known brands mentioned here are very responsive to finger touch. Windows Hello also allows you to authenticate all ten fingers just in case one of them fails.

Windows Hello Backup

In Summary

There are many advantages of USB fingerprint scanners in shared networking environments. If you’re suspecting that there is a camera or keylogger tracking your movements, it is best to enable fingerprint access. You can lock away your screen and remain assured that no one will be able to gain unauthorized entry into your system.

Do you use Touch ID or Windows Hello in your system? Will you consider using a USB fingerprint device? Do let us know in the comments.

Image Credit: Cobra Kai Season 1 episode 4

6 comments

  1. “Being biometric, it offers an extra layer of security that ordinary passwords simply can’t.”
    That makes for a great marketing slogan. Sounds plausible on first hearing it but falls apart upon further investigation. Even though biometrics ostensibly may seem secure, the one, big, overriding problem with them is that the are immutable, cannot be changed. Passwords may be easier to crack but you can changed them an infinite number of times. Biometrics you are stuck with for life. Passwords can be of any length. Biometrics are immutable. You have twenty digits, if you count both hands and feet (although I don’t think many people would use their toes), You have two eyes and ears and one face. That gives you a possibility of 25 unique identifiers. Considering that the common wisdom and advice about unique identifiers (biometrics, passwords, pass phrases) is to change them often, you will exhaust 25 unique identifiers rather quickly. What do you use then? Passwords? Passphrases? There always is DNA. DNA works great in identifying criminals. Until a smart criminal leaves someone else’s DNA at the scene. For security purposes, DNA is as bad as fingerprints, if not worse. While you can prevent from leaving fingerprints by wearing gloves, you cannot prevent shedding DNA unless you wear a full-body bio-hazard suit.

    Facial recognition has so far proven to be hit or miss, especially if you are female and/or non-white. Also, it has been shown that Apple’s FaceID can be circumvented. Retinal patterns have been duplicated. Miscreants have lifted fingerprints and duplicated them and used them in fingerprint scanners to breach security.

    So, while on the surface biometrics seem like safer mode of identification because each human has their own unique set, if your biometrics are hacked you are SOL.

    1. You said that miscreants can lift fingerprints and gain unauthorized access. But that mostly happens in Hollywood movies. That’s not how it works with USB fingerprint readers. Once you store your fingerprints in Windows Hello or Apple’s Touch ID, a unique pattern is saved which can only be unlocked by your own human fingers. To err on the side of caution, sometimes it misreads your pattern if you have wet or greasy fingers. Even a career criminal can’t fake it.

      1. “But that mostly happens in Hollywood movies.”
        Truth is stranger than fiction.
        As Hamlet said to Horatio:
        There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
        Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

        Does the USB finger print reader have a way of differentiating between a live finger print and a latex copy?
        What happens when Windows Hello or TouchID are hacked and the patterns stolen?

        Be that as it may, my point is still valid. Once your biometrics, such as finger prints, are compromised (unlikely as that may be) you are out of options forever. You cannot get new biometrics. You have to go back to using passwords/passphrases.

        Biometrics, because of their uniqueness, are great for identifying criminals. But that same uniqueness is their huge Achilles heel when they are used for security purposes, literally. After all, what were the chances of Achilles getting shot in his heel?

  2. Thank you for making us aware of USB-based fingerprint readers; I was unaware of them. And, unlike those who are paranoid about every form of security and its potential breaches, I find the likelihood that someone will breach my immutable biometrics very insignificant — as long as the technology that identifies me biometrically is accurate enough to properly recognize my uniqueness. It would seem that the only way to guarantee complete security would be to live completely off the grid, so this seems like a good alternative to me.

    1. “unlike those who are paranoid about every form of security and its potential breaches”
      Just because you are paranoid does not mean that someone is not out to get you. Neville Chamberlain trusted Hitler. Winston Churchill was “paranoid”. Churchill was proven by events to be right.

      “I find the likelihood that someone will breach my immutable biometrics very insignificant ”
      In general, the likelihood may be very insignificant. However, when it happens to you, the likelihood becomes 100%.

      What you are talking about is “security by obscurity”. You believe you are too insignificant for hackers and other miscreants to bother with you. You may be right. Individuals may be too insignificant to bother with. I, OTOH, would rather not take even that insignificant chance. The technology to fake various biometrics exists and is being used in the real world. It is not just a figment of Hollywood’s imagination.

  3. I happily use the Verimark scanner with Win 10. It proved to have less reading errors when I plugged it into an location adjustable small Anker USB hub facing up rather then out of a KVM device USB port. (Yes… it indeed worked with my KVM allowing me to use it with three different PCs.) Verimark also has associated basic password manager software to facilitate web site sign-ins which works fairly well for me. The software does not appear to be being updated regularly, is not slick or sophisticated and last I checked can only be obtained by raising the issue with support. Not…the device only supports Windows.

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