Biometric technology to screen for hijackers?

Already, several initiatives are being put into place to protect some 694 million passengers on US commercial airlines. President Bush and the US Congress have agreed to deploy sky marshals once again on commercial passenger flights. Having sky marshals aboard flights is an important step in deterring terrorism, but most of us are not comfortable with the notion of armed marshals firing weapons at 35,000 feet. It's clear that preventing terrorism must start with prevention on the ground.

Recent FAA guidelines for improving luggage and passenger searches and prohibiting any knife from being carried onto a plane are contributing to this effort. What we now need, however, is a better system of identifying who is entering our nation's airports and airplanes. At least two of the September 11 terrorists were on the INS terrorist watch list. With appropriate identification technology and access to these federal databases, the airports could have caught these men before they got to the boarding gate, potentially saving thousands of lives.

Technology solutions exist today, which can significantly improve the ability of airports and airlines to identify known criminals and terrorists and preventing them from accessing areas, whether it's a Boeing 757 or a networked PC, where they can cause harm.

Increasingly, these solutions are making use of biometrics--electronically capturing a face, a finger, a hand, an eye or even a voice--to uniquely identify individuals. For example, some US airports already compare fingerprint images of job candidates against the FBI Integrated Automated Identification System (IAFIS) database, which includes the fingerprints of known criminals and terrorists. The process takes only a couple minutes.

Biometrics technology used alone or in combination with other security practices, such as pass-codes, pin-numbers, and digital certificates, can make it significantly more difficult for criminals and terrorists to slip through the cracks at our nation's airports--or for anyone to gain unauthorised access to restricted areas or computer systems.

News source: ZDnet & IT Daily

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