Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Behavioral Biometrics: The Death of Passwords?

Soon, your computer may know you better than you do.
By Russell Miles

The Problem with Passwords

Do you find it difficult to remember all of your passwords for your favorite Web sites? Do you use the same password for everything, potentially putting yourself at risk? Even if you do everything right, password-based security can be vulnerable to hacking, as evidenced by large-scale breaches of Yahoo, LinkedIn, and Sony's Playstation Network.

No matter what you do, passwords can cause some serious frustration. Thankfully, a new field of technology known as behavioral biometrics may turn traditional passwords into a thing of the past. The way that this new tech works may be hard for you to believe.

What is Biometric Security?

An iris scanner identifies you based on the unique pattern in your eye (image source).

In general, "biometrics" refers to the process of identifying people based on their unique characteristics. You've probably seen biometrics in countless spy and sci-fi movies. When a spy scans their eyes, their face, their hand, or their fingerprint to gain access to a secret base, they are using biometric technology. These parts of the body are completely unique to each person, so they make for good security tools.

Today, biometrics are more than just science fiction. Fingerprint scanners have been used on consumer laptops for over a decade, and have recently been added to mobile phones. It is suspected that Apple is adding facial or iris recognition to the new iPhone 8, allowing users to unlock their phones simply by looking at them.

However, the field of behavioral biometrics may offer a solution that is even easier than a fingerprint scan. Soon, you may be able to unlock your device just by being yourself.

What is Behavioral Biometrics?

The way that you type and scroll can say a lot about you (image source).

Unlike other biometric technologies, behavioral biometrics does not require any swipes or scans. It doesn't measure your body --  it measures the way that you act.

Maybe you take longer than others to switch between keys, or you scroll at a certain speed. According to the developers of this technology, each person's style of typing is completely unique. By monitoring a person's habits, behavioral biometric computer programs can distinguish between people based on the way that they type and scroll. With this technology, simply using your computer could allow you to unlock it.

Watch this video and this video explaining IBM's Trusteer security software, which identifies fraud using mouse movement patterns. Watch behavioral biometrics in action, as it secures a bank account even though a "hacker" knows the password.

Advantages of Behavioral Biometrics

"Someone can steal your password, but they cannot steal your behavior (image source)."

It may be difficult to believe, but this type of security is stronger than a traditional password. In an interview with MarketWatch, BioCatch executive Eyal Goldwerger said that "Someone can steal your password, but they cannot steal your behavior." This is a powerful argument for this technology, as a password can be stolen much more easily than an entire set of habits.

Still, most people are suspicious of this new technology. For this reason, the majority of behavioral biometrics programs are used alongside a traditional password as a second line of defense against hacking.

Can your Behavior be Hacked?

Automated scripts can record and mimic your typing behavior (image source).

Just like all other forms of security, this technology is not perfect. Automated typing scripts, which learn and mimic your typing style, can be used to "hack" your behavior. Thankfully, developers insist that these scripts are easy to detect based on their precise, robotic inputs. Regardless of any risk, monitoring and reproducing human activity is certainly harder than stealing a password.

Much more troubling is that a change in your computer habits could lock you out of your account. Gradual changes are fine, but a sudden change such as a broken hand could make your computer think that you are someone else. If you decide to transition from a slow, pointer-finger typing method to a two-handed method, you could also have some issues. This problem has to be addressed before behavioral biometrics can enter the mainstream consumer market.

What do you think?

Would you trust your security with a behavioral biometrics program? Do you think this technology will catch on with everyday consumers, or will its issues hold it back? Comment below with your opinion of this technology.

If you want to learn about automated typing scripts, or want to experiment with reprogramming your keyboard, check out our tutorial on AutoHotkey. It won't teach you how to hack anyone, but it could help you make your computer more convenient.

Like most other A.I. systems, behavioral biometrics programs use neural networks. Read more about how neural networks allow computers to learn in our previous article.

Keep reading for more tech news. Try to learn how to type before behavioral biometrics hits, and don't break your hand!

Works Cited

Carter, Jamie. "Behavioural Biometrics – the Future of Security." TechRadar. TechRadar Pro IT
Insights for Business, 09 Sept. 2015. Web. 19 May 2017.

Paul, Kari. "This Technology Could Kill Passwords and Even Fingerprint Sensors."MarketWatch.
MarketWatch Inc., 02 May 2017. Web. 19 May 2017.

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