Forget Your Passwords
- By Ralph C. Jensen
- Feb 01, 2014
Looks like it is just about time for biometrics to
make its long awaited debut. Yes, we have seen
biometrics for quite some time, and it is true
that the impact has been strong in the security world.
But, get ready to see biometrics on steroids. It’s coming.
Let’s chat a moment about passwords. I don’t know
about you, but I have to remember so many passwords
that it is necessary to be in the right frame-of-mind
sometimes just to get going. Passwords change from
application to application and from entry into this secure
website to another.
I know I shouldn’t write them down—and I
don’t—but I do forget them. For instance, when I pay
my utility bill at the city, I used to have to ask for a
new password every time. The one they assigned to me
was ridiculously long and burdensome. I guess they
got tired of me asking and required that I change the
password to suit my needs. I appreciated that.
I read my hometown newspaper once a week. Same
thing happened here. I finally was able to change the
password to something I could relate to from my
youth. Otherwise, I had to be “in the zone” to remember
The same goes for my iPhone. I can never remember
the passcode, so I have to sit and think about it for
a few minutes and get “in the zone.” There seems to be
no limit to the number of passcodes one must remember
to access cell phones, computers or any number of
Biometrics may be poised to change all that, and the
fact is, your body may be the new key in access control.
At the recent Consumer Electronics Show, held in
Las Vegas, several tech companies introduced biometrics
as a way to make authentication easier and safer.
The security industry has known this for a while, but
getting buy-in from the public seems to be easier by
sharing it on the consumer side.
If you use Apple’s iPhone 5s, you already know
that it uses a fingerprint sensor to authenticate a user’s
identity. Well, Bionym has introduced a wearable
device that uses certain biometrics for authentication.
This bracelet can do everything from unlocking personal
devices to accessing personal Internet accounts.
“It is about making identity easy,” said Karl Martin,
Bionym CEO. “Which now, identity is hard. What
if identity were easy; what are the things you could
do? It is this idea that services you, and your personal
accounts and your information can just follow you.
All you need is your identity.”
It all seems quite possible, so let’s take it all a step
further.Take for example that you’re in an establishment
that is strictly non-smoking, say a restaurant,
when all of a sudden you see a huge cloud of smoke
appear directly above a person’s head. You sniff the
air. Nothing. You sniff again. Still no smell. What
you’ve probably just witnessed is the craze that is
sweeping the world: e-cigarettes, vapor cigarettes and
e-cigars. And now these little contraptions are embracing
Vapor Corp. has produced a prototype of a “biometric
vaporizer” to biometrically identify the user of
the device. Resembling a cigar-sized vaporizer, this
device comes with a built-in fingerprint scanner that
can recognize not just your fingerprint, but multiple
users, should you decide to share your vapor.
While fingerprint unlocking makes sense for smart
phones and laptops, why have a locking mechanism
have on an “e-smoke?” According to Vapor Corp, it’s
useful if you don’t want your children or roommates
“vaping” while you’re away. And, should your device
go missing, the perpetrator would not benefit because
they would not be able to use it, unless, of course, it’s
one of the multiple users.
Plus, coming soon to an e-cigarette store near you,
the “smart e-cigarette,” complete with an app so the
user can monitor how many times per day they have
“vaped” and how much nicotine they have consumed.
All this seems a little out of the ordinary and even
fantastical, but biometrics will soon be as commonplace
as car keys dangling from your keychain. Biometrics
is not new; it is only taking on several new identities.
For more than 20 years, biometric hand geometry
has been providing access control at the highest levels.
It is a layer of protection that ID cards cannot provide.
An additional feature about biometrics is that
it can be a standalone device at a single door or connected
to an overall access control system.
At the Venetian Macao, a gaming strip much
like Las Vegas, hand readers solved a crucial problem
for contractors by protecting projects from theft
and keeping people from getting hurt on construction
sites. Because of strict labor and safety laws in
Macao, biometrics restricted illegal workers and employees
without safety training from entering construction
sites by accurately denying access, while
biometric hand geometry devices gave authorized
workers quick access.
Although available for several decades, biometrics
is turning heads on the consumer level in the same
way it has been accepted in the security industry. Pretty
soon, we will be a keyless society; our identity will
be exactly who we are, individually.
This article originally appeared in the February 2014 issue of Security Today.