Securing your devices and accounts is both essential and frustrating. Passwords are still the most common form of security, but they need to be remembered and are vulnerable to being compromised. So biometric security was introduced, but these systems still require you to touch a device (fingerprint) or rely on features that are realtively easy to copy (face or voice). The University of Buffalo believes it has a better biometric security solution, and it uses your heart.
Wenyao Xu, PhD, the study's lead author, and an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the university, created a system that uses a low-level Doppler radar to assess your heart. It works by bouncing a microwave signal off a target, in this case a person's heart, and analyzing how the returned signal has changed in terms of motion.
The reading of your heart takes roughly eight seconds, with the reader being about five milliwatts. That should put your mind at rest about potential harm as according to Xu that's, "even less than 1 percent of the radiation from our smartphones."
A unique identity can be created from the data collected, which takes into account the geometry of the heart, its shape and size, and how it moves. Anyone watching the system in action will have no idea what's happening other than your phone/laptop/PC unlocks without any input from the user, and as each heart is unique nobody else can access your devices.
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The security is further enhanced by the fact it constantly monitors the user. So, for example, if you are using a device and walk away the device will lock. If someone quickly takes your position the heart reader will detect the different heart and lock. At most they'll get a few seconds of access while it reassess the user.
Although Xu and his team have a working system, it needs to be miniaturized. The plan is to integrate it on to the corner of keyboards, install it at airport security (thanks to a working range of 30 meters), and eventually offer it for integration into cell phones. I'd also like to see that assessment time fall well below eight seconds.
The research team is set to present their paper, entitled Cardiac Scan: A Non-Contact and Continuous Heart-Based User Authentication System, at the MobiCom 2017 conference being held between October 16-20 in Utah.
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