We all know that biometrics can be powerful elements in providing access control and in securing systems. Retina scans, fingerprints and face recognition, among other things, are used extensively in a variety of ways.
Is it time to add electronic tattoos and vitamin pills to that list?
It is if you work for Google and are experimenting with futuristic security measures. And that’s exactly what Regina Dugan does as head of special projects at Google-owned Motorola, as she described atThe All Things Digital conference last week.
Dugan, former head of the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, said that she and her colleagues believe the next frontiers in biometrics may well be found on your arm and in your stomach.
According to All Things Digital writer Liz Gannes, the electronic tattoo could be used to authenticate a user instead of a password. The tattoo is made by a company called MC10 with which Motorola is partnering in this innovative research.
Meanwhile, Dugan says a pill can be ingested and then battery-powered with stomach acid to produce an 18-bit internal signal. After that, the swallower’s whole body becomes a password.
Speaking at the conference, Dugan calls authentication “irritating”, with only about 50 per cent of people bothering to set up and use passwords (for example). She adds that the average person uses some form of security authentication 39 times a day, with each time taking about 3 seconds. Heavy users, she said, authenticate up to 100 times a day.
Dugan goes on to talk about a “mechanical mis-match problem” in security authentication, in which boxes (for smart phones, servers and the like) are “boxy and rigid”, whereas humans are “curvy and soft”.
The answer to the timing and mis-match problems, in Dugan’s view, is the electronic tattoo and the security pill. Eager to show off her ground-breaking biometrics, Dugan rolls up her sleeve on the video to reveal her own electronic tattoo.
As cool as these steps may seem to some people, they give rise to a number of issues.
According to Antone Gansalves, writing for CSO Online, security experts say these new biometric technologies would create a unique set of challenges. For example, criminals would have to add kidnapping to hacking computer systems in order to get the information they seek.
“Criminals will want to take your body and bring it to their login place or maybe make you login under duress, which is scary,” said Mark Risher, chief executive of Impermium, which protects Web sites against account compromises and counterfeit registrations.
So, whether you want to scan your eyes or dye your forearms, it seems clear that your body will play a bigger role in security in the near future.