In today's world, businesses and organizations are increasingly concerned with computer network security. In financial and medical institutions where personal accounts and patient records are at risk, tight security is essential. Passwords can be particularly problematic because they can be duplicated or stolen. In fact, thieves don't have to be very devious; they can find passwords on Post-it notes stuck to PC monitors. A new desktop security system with a fingerprint reader that features a complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) image sensor promises to alleviate these worries -- and reduce management costs.Identicator Technology has developed a device it calls the Direct Fingerprint Reader. It replaces passwords with fingerprints for user authentication. Small enough to be incorporated into PCs and PC peripherals, it features Compaq software and VLSI Vision Ltd.'s VV5404 monochrome 356 × 292-pixel CMOS sensor, which has an on-chip A/D converter. It incorporates a wide range of on-chip controls, eliminating the need for additional support chips. Key to fingerprint identification, the sensors have found use as the basis for access systems for keyboards for ATMs or for credit card verification. Identicator chose the VV5404 because it filled the product requirements at an affordable price.VLSI Vision's CMOS image sensor is at the heart of Identicator Technology's fingerprint reader for PC authentication. The small fingerprint reader can be mounted on the side of a monitor and is compatible with all smart card-based security products. It connects to the parallel port and the mouse or keyboard port. A frame grabber or separate power supply is not needed. The fingerprint reader is compatible with Compaq Deskpro, Armada PCs and professional workstations. It not only tightens network security, but also simplifies the log-in process. Forgotten or expired passwords are no longer a problem. Although increased security usually means a heavier workload for administrators, the fingerprint ID minimizes help-desk calls and so reduces desktop management costs. A consortium that includes Compaq, Identicator Technology, IBM and Microsoft is aiming to bring biometric technologies to the PC marketplace. It plans to introduce a range of standards that will promote access to biometric products.