Upek is a leading company when it comes to biometric fingerprint security solutions, for both physical and logical access control. Upek fingerprint readers are integrated in Lenovo Thinkpad and Sony Vaio notebooks as well as in certain notebooks of Acer, Asus and Dell. This review is not about these built-in fingerprint readers, it is about the Upek Eikon which is a desktop USB fingerprint reader.
Update on 26-Jul-2015: the company Upek no longer exists, through a series of mergers and acquisitions it has been acquired by Apple. If you still have Upek Eikon fingerprint reader then it is very unlikely that you will receive any support from Apple to get this device working on MS Windows or Linux.
The TCS4C sensor which is built into the Upek Eikon is a swipe sensor, which means that you have to swipe your finger over the sensor. The TCS4C is a CMOS, capacitive sensor.
The Upek Eikon fingerprint reader is targeted for single user applications, such as a home desktop computer. According to Upek their fingerprint reader works on the following operating systems: MS Windows 7, Vista, XP and CE, on Linux and on Mac OS X. For this review we tested it on MS Windows 7, Ubuntu Linux 9.10 and 10.04.
|Device Size||84 x 33.8 x 14.3 mm|
|Device Weight||68 g|
|Protective coating (sensor)||> 10 million swipes|
|Sensor type||CMOS (capacitive)|
|Maximum templates||15 (stored on device)|
|Acquisition speed||39 cm /sec|
|Array size (touch) / width (swipe)||192 px|
|Supported OS||Windows XP/Vista/7/CE, Linux, Mac OS|
|Certifications||CE / UL / VCCI / FCC / USB2.0 / Microsoft WHQL|
Software and functionality
For this review we tested the Upek Eikon fingerprint reader on MS Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. According to Upek their fingerprint reader should also work fine under MS Windows Vista, XP and CE.
The CD that came with the Upek Eikon we bought on Amazon contained drivers for MS Windows Vista, XP, 2000 and Server 2003. This is not a problem since MS Windows 7 automatically detected the Upek Eikon, and identified it as a TouchChip Fingerprint Coprocessor without needing any additional drivers. The Upek Protector Suite 2009, which came on the CD, supports MS Windows 7 both in the 32 and 64 bit version. Installation was simple, also upgrading to the latest version of Protector Suite 2009 went with just two or three clicks of the mouse.
For the review on MS Windows 7 we used Protector Suite 2009, version 188.8.131.5201.
After installation you can start enrolling your fingerprints, one fingerprint is sufficient however it is recommended to enroll more than one in case of injury. The software allows you to register fingerprint templates on the harddisk or on the device (limited to 15 templates).
The software can then be used to
- Replace your MS Windows login password
- Start an application by striking your finger over the sensor, you can assign an application to each finger to quickly launch this application
- Replace passwords to websites or applications with your fingerprint. For websites this works out of the box in Internet Explorer 8, for Mozilla Firefox 3.6.6 there was no plugin directly available with Protector Suite 2009, however this plugin could be downloaded (update: no longer available). This functionality works fine under MS Windows 7 using IE 8 or Firefox 3.6.6.
- Securely store files, folders and information such as credit card numbers using encryption.
- Strong password generator.
Installation of the Upek Eikon and the Protector Suite 2009 was as easy as connecting the device and inserting the provided CD-rom. Almost everything worked out of the box.
Protector Suite 2009 is very user friendly and includes a good explanation on how to use the Upek Eikon fingerprint reader.
For this review we tested the Upek Eikon fingerprint reader on Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala) and Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx). It is important to know that the available functionalities on MS Windows are very much reduced on Linux.
Upek Eikon on Ubuntu 9.10
Installation on Ubuntu 9.10 is easy, all you have to do is download the Protector Suite for Linux from the Upek website (update: no longer available) and install the included .deb package. Next to packages for Ubuntu and Debian, software versions for other Linux distributions such as Fedora core 10 and Mandriva Linux are available. Upek does not provide software which is compatible with the latest Linux Distribution versions, but as you will see in the section for Ubuntu 10.04 there exist alternatives for more recent distributions.
After installing the package on Ubuntu and rebooting your computer, you first have to enroll one or more fingerprints. To enroll you go to System > Administration > Fingerprint Enrollment, you have to scan each finger you enroll at least 5 times. From then on you can use your fingerprint reader for login, to unlock the gnome screensaver and even to sudo in a shell. However your fingerprint will not unlock the gnome keyring, so to enter for example a wireless secured network you will still have to enter a password at each login.
Upek Eikon on Ubuntu 10.04
The Linux Protector Suite which you can download from Upek’s website does not work on Ubuntu 10.04, the .deb package will install without error messages but you won’t be able to use the fingerprint reader. Fortunately the Upek Eikon is supported by libfprint which integrates well with Fingerprint GUI. Installation is more difficult, therefore refer to Upek Eikon on Ubuntu 10.04 for detailled installation instructions.
The functionality that is provided by Fingerprint GUI is largely the same as for Upek’s own Protector Suite for Linux. There is an enrollment screen where you can enroll one or more fingerprints, and after enrollment your Upek Eikon fingerprint reader can be used to login, to unlock the gnome screensaver and to sudo in a shell. Your fingerprint will not unlock the gnome keyring, so to enter for example a wireless secured network you will still have to enter a password at each login.
When using Fingerprint GUI the fingerprints are saved on your computer harddisk, and not on the device. This increases the risk that someone gains access to the files containing your fingerprints. Since Fingerprint GUI only uses the fingerprint reader for access control to the computer and not to websites or for encryption of private data this is currently not a concern.
How secure is the Upek Eikon?
The Upek Eikon is a CMOS reader, which is a lot more secure than an optical reader. Furthermore this biometric device is equipped with liveliness detection which makes it more difficult to fool than its precedessors.
We tried fooling the Upek Eikon with fingerprints that were printed on transparency using a laser printer and with fake silicon fingerprints. Using such fake fingerprints it was very difficult to fool the liveliness detection, by wetting the plastic we got the device to actually read the fake fingerprints from time to time but when we got to that point we received each time an error message that the reading was too short. We’re not experts in circumventing biometric devices, but we did spend a good deal of our time in trying to circumvent the logics of the device, without success.
However we do not recommend protecting all your credit card information, all your passwords and most private information using just a fingerprint. There is little technical information available on the type of encryption used by Upek to store these data and this is still a USB device with all locks and keys placed close together, in most of such cases it takes only a few hackers with some spare time to figure out how it works.
The Upek Eikon is an excellent choice for home users who are tired of keeping up with passwords. Upek offers a lot of functionality as well as compatibility with different operating systems for a very reasonable price. The software is easy to install and to use on MS Windows.
Furthermore the Upek Eikon fingerprint reader has a nice design and is not too big when compared to other fingerprint readers.