Alan Leibert Associates Ltd, Pinner, Middlesex, has finally brought to market a signature verification technology that has been 10 years in the gestation and which owes its origins in part to the UK National Physical Laboratory and its VeriSign project. The device runs on its own discrete logic and is designed to attach to PC-DOS […]
Alan Leibert Associates Ltd, Pinner, Middlesex, has finally brought to market a signature verification technology that has been 10 years in the gestation and which owes its origins in part to the UK National Physical Laboratory and its VeriSign project. The device runs on its own discrete logic and is designed to attach to PC-DOS machines, IBM and DEC terminals, as well as interfacing to the standard security packages such as RACF and ACF II for large installations. Previous generations of signature verification machines have been accused of being far too expensive, and Leibert thinks it has something of a breakthrough with an initial price of UKP850, a target price or half that in under a year with a VLSI version, and an eventual volume price for the retail environment of UKP150. A version to fit inside a Personal Computer slot will be out by the year-end. The initial algorithms were worked out in the mid-1970s at the Teddington laboratory, and five or six companies have offered products based on it, priced in the UKP10,000 region. Leibert introduced the concept to McQuorquodale Holdings in the US, which put up development cash, helped tidy the product and now holds 80% of Signify Corp, which launched the product six weeks ago in the US. Leibert has UK rights for both end-user and OEM sales, calls the product Sign/On and is chasing the computer terminal security market, replacing log-on passwords; and retail environments. Banks, credit card companies and automatic teller machines are the best routes into the retail world, especially large store in-house credit schemes, where Leibert claims Sign/On is an order of magnitude more reliable than a personal identification number or PIN. Uncopyable The signature is virtually uncopyable, especially since the system measures 13 different parameters such as length of time taken to sign; initial pen acceleration; final deceleration; pen movements off the paper, and not just the pressure and signature shape. The Sign/On hardware can hold 100 signatures at any one time, but can be fed an unlimited number from an attached computer, taking just 22 bytes to retain an identity. Sign/On is tunable so that extremely high security can be achieved at the cost of users having to keep their own signature fairly consistent. Leibert hopes for 10,000 sales through next year, and says that in the UK alone where there are over 1m terminals attached to large systems, as many as 60% to 70% of companies pay at least lip service to security of some description, with half of them taking it seriously enough to consider this option. That means, he says, that his target is achievable without making huge inroads into the retail market until 1989. Negotiations with a number of banks and most building societies are said to be under way, and both ICL and NCR are believed to be having discussions with Leibert about the product, either for internal use or for incorporation into their offerings. Leibert is hoping to get 20 trial Sign/On systems installed almost immediately.