Thursday, 28 April 2016

Logging in with Your Head May Not Be Far Away

Security continues to be among the top concerns of the information age thanks to creative hackers who are always finding new ways to break into systems. In response, security experts are aggressively pursuing an extensive list of new measures, including using biometric information to log in to accounts. The use of such information would eliminate the need for usernames and passwords that can be easily hacked. If all works out well for German researchers, logging in to your computer with your head and a sound file may not be far off.

The biometric security protocols we have seen thus far rely on things such as fingerprints and iris scans. Now, researchers at the University of Stuttgart, Saarland University and the Max Planck Institute for Informatics are working on a new way to take advantage of the architecture of the human skull for biometric identification. They have modified a Google Glass device capable of identifying minute structural differences that enable software to tell the difference between human beings.

Researchers explain that the shape, size and other features of the human skull are different from one person to the next. So unique are we in this regard that sound resonates within the skull in a way that is distinct in every person. The German system takes advantage of this by playing a sound through a headset that is then measured according to how it resonates in the skull. Resonance data can then be stored and compared at a later time. So far, the researchers say their system works with an accuracy of about 97% which is good but, of course, needs to be honed before it is feasible to use on a commercial basis.

Blurring the Lines of Integration

Should the German researchers manage to bring their project to commercial fruition, it will change basic computing and networking forever. Gone will be the days of remembering passwords that have to be changed every 4 to 6 months for security purposes. Access to networks will be granted to specific people, and those people only, based on unique markers present in their biometric information.

What we are now witnessing is a blurring of the line between human and machine. As so many science fiction films have predicted in the past, we could be moving ever-closer to that time when humans and computers are so tightly integrated that identifying any line between them is nigh on impossible.

As for the German system, dubbed ‘SkullConduct’, there really are no practical limits once it is perfected and made marketable. Any function for which traditional usernames and passwords are used can easily be adapted to the new biometric solution. It can be used locally, in the cloud, across international networks and so on.

What will they think of next? No one knows, but logging into your computer using your head and a resonating sound wave is certainly intriguing. The only thing the rest of us ask is that the chosen sound be somewhat pleasant. No loud sirens, shrieks, bells, or whistles, please!

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