Security In The Palm of Your Hands – CSA Gets Hands On With Fujitsu Lifebook Equipped with PalmSecure Technology

Biometrics-based authentication systems, a technology which was only found in the realm of science fiction many years ago, are now becoming an integral part of daily life as we look for ways to improve how we protect our valuable data. From fingerprint scanning, facial recognition to finger vein, voice pattern and retina scanning technologies, biometrics are gaining traction because they’re seen as an identification/authentication method that’s highly reliable, accurate and efficient.

One variant of the biometrics security that none of us at AOPG has had any hands-on (no pun intended) experience with is the palm vein pattern scanning technology. So we were quite excited when we got the chance to review the Fujitsu Lifebook U938 laptop, which comes equipped with the Fujitsu PalmSecure technology.

The first thing that almost all of us noticed and commented on, other than the striking red and sleek design, was how light the laptop felt. Weighing in at between 799g to just under 1kg, the 13.3-inch ultraportable was a joy to carry around compared to the trusty (but much bulkier in comparison) laptops we’re used to lugging daily. The solid magnesium alloy housing just screams premium.

At 15.5mm thin, the Fujitsu Lifebook U938 makes our regular-sized laptop look like a behemoth

Same goes with the specs underneath the hood of the Lifebook. While the review unit wasn’t the top-of-the-line model, the 8th Gen Intel Core i5-8350U, speedy SSD drive and generous 12GB of RAM that it came with was more than capable of keeping up with the daily rigours and on-the-go lifestyle of this journalist at least.

The interfaces are quite amazing, full-size HDMI port, 2x USB 3.1, 1x USB Type-C and a surprising LAN (RJ45) port in a 15.5mm housing, a true dongle-less ultra-light notebook. Everything’s responsive and fast as you‘d expect and the battery managed to last over 6 hours of moderate use (web surfing, word processing and occasional streaming of videos at 50% LCD brightness). The battery supports fast charge; it impressively managed to charge up to 80% within an hour.

Back to the security aspect, Fujitsu seems to be quite serious about addressing today’s cybersecurity concerns, marketing it as having “ultimate security features” for protecting the notebook and business data within it from unauthorised access.

In an age where cyber threats are becoming increasingly prevalent, sophisticated and malicious, it helps to have security features be included right out of the box. Accordingly, Fujitsu has recently announced bundling a free security software called AuthConductor Client Basic Edition which enables biometric Single Sign-On. The major features are:

Preboot Authentication at BIOS level
Before Windows is loaded, it prompts for your fingerprint or palm-vein authentication ensuring you are the notebook owner.

Biometric Authentication for Windows login
Windows login is the door to your data. Like a bank vault, it should be protected by “who you are” instead of “what you know”. Biometric is your unique identity to present “who you are”, but password is “what you know” which can be transferrable. 

Biometric Authentication for Websites and Windows application
According to a study by Fujitsu, the average person has to remember around 15 different passwords. 60% cannot remember all their passwords and 42% write their passwords down. This has led to increasing security breaches to sensitive data. Fujitsu AuthConductor Client solves this problem by applying biometric authentication layer for website logins without requiring any changes in the website's coding. It has been tested to work perfectly on sites like Facebook and Salesforce.

Based on our experience with the notebook, once a user’s palm-vein has been registered, PalmSecure became the fastest way of gaining access to the workspace within. However, it did take a few tries for us to get used to the exact height and positioning to get the sensor to correctly register our palms. From our point of view, which is the point of view of regular users, it’s as quick and convenient to use as other biometric authentication technologies we’re using on other devices such as our smartphones.

However, the reason Fujitsu has been strongly advocating this PalmSecure is due to the considerably lower False Acceptance Rate (FAR) and False Rejection Rate (FRR) of the technology when compared with other biometric techniques, as shown in the diagram below.

As such, the technology is gaining traction in many industries such as in the financial sector (for online banking, ATM and over the counter user authentication), for personal record management use cases as well as cashless and cardless payments. Among the security benefits of palm vein security include:

High Safety & Permanence
·         Veins are unique even among identical twins and never changes throughout one’s life
·         Since veins are hidden under the skin, they’re very difficult to forge
·         Detectable only when blood is flowing

High Accuracy
·         Palm vein patterns are complex, having over 5 million reference points
·         Our palms have thicker veins than fingers, making them easier to identify
·         Palm veins remain the same regardless of the temperature or the external condition of the skin

High Acceptance
·         Very hygienic due to non-contact operation
·         Very easy and intuitive to use
For better security and peace of mind, users can (and should) leverage PalmSecure with other security technologies and approaches, such as two-factor authentication, which is also part of Fujitsu’s security offering for those interested.

All in all, the Fujitsu Lifebook U938 is a super lightweight ultrabook with the performance to fulfil the needs of most of today’s professionals except for the most hardcore of users. Moreover, the emphasis Fujitsu has placed on the security aspects, incorporating advanced security mechanisms, such as Fujitsu AuthConductor Client and PalmSecure, definitely makes this notebook a compelling choice for consumers and enterprise users alike.

It’s quite a looker too, with the striking red variant set to turn a few heads when you’re out and about (if that’s what you’re into). Otherwise, go with the black version.

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