Subtitle Weaning myself off the Microsoft Fingerprint Reader
I love using my Microsoft Fingerprint Reader. I can use it to log into Windows. I can click on a shortcut to a website, press the fingerprint reader and I’m logged into the website. I love using it. One of the best features is that you can use individual loooong passwords or pass phrases on each website.
It’s not supported by Microsoft in Internet Explorer 8 (although there is a Firefox Add-in which supports it), Windows 7 or 64 bit editions of Windows. So I’ve been exploring open source options. Turns out that KeePass Password Safe is an excellent alternative. I like open source alternatives as I trust the open source community to review the code and ensure things are kept secure and confidential.
Side note: After having a few discussions on this topic in years past with Microsoft personnel I do trust them to do a darned good job of keeping things secure and confidential.
One of the very nice features in KeePass is the Autotype feature. Took a bit of work to get the system-wide auto-type hot key working as the documentation wasn’t very clear. But now I can be at a web page in Firefox or IE, hit Ctrl+Alt+A and it will fill in the user id and pass word for me. So hitting three keys on the keyboard is just about as efficient as pressing on the fingerprint reader. Which sometimes takes two or three tries.
One problem though is that a few websites won’t take a 20 character password. Worse some will take it when you initially setup your account and silently truncate the extra characters. Then when you log in a second time it doesn’t truncate your password but still does the comparison so your passwords now don’t match.
The biggest inconvenience is going to be logging into Windows. I’m going to be loosing that functionality. Well, I’m using a pass phrase that I can just about rattle off in my sleep so I guess that won’t be too bad. Needless to say though I’m not going to be in any hurry to upgrade my current Windows XP laptop.
Do ensure that you write down your Windows password and your KeePass master password and give to a few trusted relatives or friends who don’t live near you in a sealed envelope. Actually I have these in a special KeePass entry in the notes section so it’s quite secure. This way I can copy and paste into Notepad, print and distribute.
If you are going to switch passwords ensure you’ve distributed the passwords before you actually start using them. Why? Well, what if you are disabled or dead before you get around to notifying your trusted friends and relatives. Also we have the best of intentions but I know that I don’t always get around to doing some things on a timely basis.
Note that one of the most important things you can do is to use a different password for every site you visit and your computer. There are many stories of crackers getting thousands of passwords from sites with bad security and using the same userid and password at other sites. This is why products such as KeePass is so important as they enable you to conveniently store and use different passwords for each website.