Fingerprint readers on laptops: why?

Recently, it seems many laptops have fingerprint readers. I started wondering “why”.

Most laptops have just one user. For the shared laptop, it seems to much of a fuss. I mean, in the rare case for mutual-untrustworthiness between the users, it seems to make more sense to just use passwords. Surely, that would not justify another device, and modification of the laptop design to accomodate it.

If a laptop is stolen, and there’s sensitive data, I’d assume the thieves can just pry the hard drive out and read. So, what, do people actually encrypt their drive with their fingerprint as key? I don’t know how many reliable bits are there, and probably the common laptop has their fingerprints all over it. I assume something that takes fingerprints and a scanner would be a portable solution to guessing the key in those cases.

Like any security device, we must ask ourselves, what attacks is it meant to foil? I cannot think of any.

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2 Responses to Fingerprint readers on laptops: why?

  1. prodlife says:

    Its for convenience. Easier to slide finger than enter password. Especially in companies that require minimum of 12 characters in password (mixed case, numbers, special chars, etc).

    Vista has good integration with these readers, and you can encrypt files/directories and open them using finger print. A friend of mine uses it to hide porn videos/photos from his wife.

  2. moshez says:

    1. I am not sure what attacks are the “passwords” meant to foil, unless it is “logging into the domain”. If it’s logging into the domain, and you’re using fingerprints, I’m not sure how it works — does the domain get bits directly from the fingerprint, or is there a password on the laptop which is sent to the domain?

    2. Encryption using fingerprints: it’s probably not smart to leave the key *all over the laptop*: perhaps you are a cleaner person than I, but I don’t doubt if anyone was to dust my laptop for prints, they would get them in abundance. Perhaps it’s useful against the “incompetent wife” attack — but honestly, this is kind of niche?

    ETA: I sure hope his wife doesn’t find the easy explanation on how to bypass fingerprint scanners

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