UPEK Eikon Digital Privacy Manager Review
The Eikon is essentially a USB fingerprint scanner designed to sit on your desktop. Once installed you can swipe a finger over the scanner to access your computer.
Installation is fairly straightforward, although we had to download the Protector Suite software from the UPEK website, because PC-only software is included in the package.
Setting up the Eikon is also reasonably straightforward. The Protector Suite asks you to select fingers of your choice and each one has to be 'swiped' three times to get an accurate reading. The swiping process has to be done fairly slowly and there is a knack to getting it right. It's easier for some fingers (index and middle) than others (ring and little) and if you swipe too fast, or off to one side, then it returns an error.
Once you've set up the suite it adjusts the Login and Authentication window (shown during software installation and when making changes to certain System Preferences).
Instead of the usual password dialogue, it displays a new fingerprint sensor graphic. Swiping a finger now acts as confirmation of your identity.
You can set Login window and Authentication dialogue settings separately, and each can be set to 'swipe or password', 'swipe only' or 'swipe and password' (in case you're worried about somebody stealing your fingers).
Ultimately we're undecided as to how secure the Eikon really is. One question that crossed our minds was: 'what happens if you set it to swipe only and the Eikon breaks?' We tested this by pulling out the USB lead during booting. The answer is that without the fingerprint device attached the device reverts to asking for your username and password. Which somewhat nullifies the point of the 'swipe only' and 'swipe and password' options.
On the other hand – if you have it set to swipe only – the Authentication dialogue insists on the swipe regardless of the status of the device. So it is possible for you Login to the Mac without the Eikon, but you can't change any settings. More crucially you can't change the Eikon settings or uninstall the device – which might be something to bear in mind if it does break.
A greater level of adjustment here wouldn't go amiss. We're sure some users would prefer the device to revert to passwords upon breaking; whereas others would rather the whole system locked down until a replacement Eikon was purchased.
We also had issues with the device's integration with 1Password (one of the programs we use that perpetually requests our Authentication passwords). We found that the Eikon could unlock 1Password during Login, but it unlocked it for as long as our Mac was switched on; whereas 1Password itself can default to asking for a repeat password every hour.
One final problem is that it doesn't integrate with 'Protected Disks'. These virtual disks can be created using Disk Utility (by selecting New and Blank Disk Image) and given 128bit or 256bit password protection – Mac users often use them to create safe vaults for protecting sensitive files.
Ultimately, we're not convinced that lifting your hand off the keyboard and swiping a finger is any easier (or more secure) than tapping in your password. Although we do admit that it certainly feels more fun.