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Hands Up! Laptop Scans Palm Veins for Security

Fingerprint scanners may be all the rage in device security, but Japanese hardware company Fujitsu thinks it has an even better hand to play: yours.

The company is working on palm readers for smartphones, tablets and laptops. The readers will scan an entire palm and use the unique network of veins crisscrossing it to identify approved users.

MORE: Apple's Touch ID: How Secure Is It?

Fujitsu's PalmSecure device is about the size of a regular fingerprint scanner (just a bit more than 1 inch x 1 inch) and uses beams of near-infrared light to read palms held about two inches above its surface. Because there's no need to touch the scanner, users won't leave traces, which Fujitsu says makes the scanner more secure and hygienic.

Fujitsu made a limited number of PalmSecure-equipped Arrows tablets for Japan's Fukuoka Financial Group. Fujitsu is rumored to also be looking into PalmSecure-equipped smartphones, but has made no announcements thus far.

Fujitsu has been working on palm-scanning technology for a few years now. In September 2012, the company worked with Ogaki Kyoritsu Bank to install palm readers in 10 Japanese ATM machines

Some security experts say biometrics — unique identifiers derived from features of a person's body — are more secure than passwords because users don't have to remember them and they are more difficult to guess. Others pointed out that it's impossible to change a biometric, whereas regularly changing passwords helps keep users secure, particularly in the case of data breaches.

PalmSecure has a fail-safe against even the most grisly biometric workarounds: Fujitsu says that the scanner can detect whether blood is pumping through the palm's veins, and will not unlock if it detects no blood flow. That means a severed hand or a dead body could not be used to unlock the device.

The scanner is compatible with Windows XP and later versions of Windows, as well as Linux (kernel 2.6.32 or later). It can currently be purchased as a standalone device, or comes built into several Fujitsu laptops.

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