Redstone FCU Turns To Biometrics To Boost Security

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Redstone Federal Credit Union is a prime example of the efficiencies gained by using biometrics for improved internal security, according to its senior vice president of technology.

The $1.8-billion CU headquartered in Huntsville, Ala., serves 254,000 members through its 16 branches. Stephen White, who led an educational session at the recent NAFCU annual convention here, said Redstone's 600 employees had more than 20 password-protected applications, which, in turn, generated an average of 147 password-related help desk calls per month over the past year.

White said credit unions have four good reasons to use biometrics-the use of fingerprints, voice patterns, facial patterns or other biological characteristics-to replace passwords for secure access to systems: enhanced security, reduced administration costs, improved productivity and reduced password problems.

"Numbers two through four are closely related," he told the audience. "Your staff probably spends a lot of time on administration reissuing passwords."

Redstone had five goals when it decided to adopt biometrics: combine all password applications into one, reduce password help desk calls by 75% to 90%, enhance security, improve productivity and enhance the user experience.

To make this happen, RFCU selected a vendor that could integrate biometrics and a single sign-on. The easy part, White said, was training: "It only takes about 30 seconds."

One of the challenges, however, was registering the staff's fingerprints. He said 80% of employees had problems getting the optical system to read their prints. "These were mostly older folks. Some of us have had a hard life, or at least our fingers have," he joked. "Maybe the old saying 'working your fingers to the bone' applies."

From Down Under

The vendor Redstone used for its biometric security was Protocom Development Systems. Kevin Prior, Protocom's regional consulting manager in Rancho Cordova, Calif., said the company was founded in 1989 in Canberra, Australia.

"Our technology vision is to provide a single and secure identity for an employee or a consumer when accessing one or more computer systems, even when those systems have different authentication security requirements and authentication challenges," he said.

Prior encouraged attendees of the educational session to shop around, as there are many options in the biometrics space. He said the cost of the system depends on the technology used.

A demonstration was shown using a keyboard with a fingerprint reader, but other methods also are available, he advised.

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