US Military Develops Invisible Biometric ‘Passwords’

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

The end of traditional biometric and password security? US Military signs deal for new ID verification system

A new form of identity verification could be in the works after the US military signed a deal for “next gen passwords”.

The deal will see the development of a “cognitive” identity verification system at West Point, the home of the US army’s military academy.

ID Verification

The thinking behind the new system is to overcome the existing limitations of traditional biometric (i.e fingerprint and iris recognition) and password-based verification systems.

Instead, the multimillion-dollar contract for researchers at West Point, is to develop new technology that works on “cognitive fingerprints” rather than physical characteristics such as palms, face, DNA or iris recognition.

BiometricsAccording to Sky News, which has the contract document, biometric application programme interface (API) is based on the emerging field of behavioural-based biometrics, where algorithms are used to confirm identity by recognising the way a person uses desktop or mobile device.

So instead of using static characteristics such as a person’s iris or fingerprint, the new system may include observing the rhythm of writing, or how a mouse or cursor is moved, or even frequent typographical errors and typing speed.

“Just as when you touch something with your finger you leave behind a fingerprint, when you interact with technology you do so in a pattern based on how your mind processes information, leaving behind a ‘cognitive fingerprint’,” the contract document reportedly says.

“The biometrics program is creating a next generation biometric capability built from multiple stylometric/behavioural modalities using standard Department of Defence computer hardware.”

Stylometrics is currently used to check academic authorship and plagiarism, and essentially it does an analysis of how text is constructed.

And according to Sky it seems that the American military expects to develop the system for encrypted data communications across all of its services, as part of the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency active authentication programme. International Biometric Group (IBG) was awarded a $3m (£2m) contract to carry on previous security identification work undertaken for West Point.

When this verification system migrates to the civilian world, it is expected to be used for personal verification in online banking, shopping and even the “internet of things”.

Biometric Demand?

Demand for biometric solutions seems to be increasing. Several leading smartphone devices, including the Samsung Galaxy S5 and iPhone 6, now come with fingerprint scanners.

Just before Christmas, research firm Acuity claimed that Christmas 2014 had been a bumper year for the biometrics industry. It cited the fact that consumers were capitalising on mobile payment technology to do their seasonal shopping more than ever.

And this month research by Visa Europe found that three-quarters of 16-24 year olds in the UK would feel comfortable using information such as fingerprint scans, facial recognition or retina scanning in place of traditional passcodes.

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