The human body is the new password

“Treat your password like your toothbrush. Don’t let anybody else use it, and get a new one every six months”

The above quote comes from Clifford Stoll, an astronomer and computer administrator, who tracked down the German hacker Markus Hess in 1986. Hess used the network of the laboratory which Stoll worked for to penetrate military networks. The secret documents that Hess found were given to the Russians. In his quest Stoll documented all the activities of the hacker. Stoll finally recorded his story in 1989 in the book “The Cuckoo’s Egg”. Stoll’s experiences tempted him to make the above statement. His words make it clear once again how personal a password is. After all, you do not give your toothbrush to a stranger and then use it again yourself.

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Nowadays you need more then one toothbrush in order to exist online. Ranging from a PIN for your debit card, to a code to access your smartphone, to entering a username and password to view the latest messages on your Facebook wall. A study from 2011 showed that an average person uses 10 passwords online per day. And then the real question is just how safe are these passwords? Often a password is quite easy to figure out, or worse, people use the same password for multiple online services.

One central place for all passwords

Meanwhile, there are many online services, such as 1Password, KeePass, LastPass and Dash Lane, which function as a digital vault where users can leave their passwords with peace of mind. Each time a password must be used to log into a website, the password locker pops up to take over this task. We want this kind of service to access all kinds of things. Just think of the lock on the door, bike or car, or think of the ATM, but also access to certain channels or movies on television or walking through customs. Several times a day we have to identify ourselves, wouldn’t it be much easier if we can unlock all these mechanisms in the same way?

The body is the new digital safe

On all fronts people are working hard to achieve the above scenario. A few weeks ago Motorola demonstrated a so called password pill. A vitamin pill that contains a computer chip which transmits an encrypted signal to identify the individual. Google recently filed a patent to recognize faces in a unique way. Normal facial recognition software can easily be fooled by keeping a picture in front of the camera. Google has therefore found a way that the static portraits can be broken, simply by winking, “at least one of a blink gesture, a wink gesture, an ocular movement, a smile gesture, a frown gesture, a tongue protrusion gesture, an open mouth gesture, an eyebrow movement, a forehead wrinkle gesture, and a nose wrinkle gesture.” Last week Apple announced that a fingerprint is enough to unlock it’s new smartphone. Apple’s Senior VP of Hardware Engineering, Dan Riccio, says the following: “The fingerprint passwords is one of the best in the world. It’s always with you, and there’s no two alike.”

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The most beautiful example of how to log on to a digital network in the future comes from Nymi. It is a bracelet with a unique algorithm that measures your heartbeat. The result of this measurement is like a unique fingerprint. The following video which demonstrates Nymi shows some scenarios how such a bracelet takes care of the identification of the user.

A world of possibilities opens when the biorhythm is used in digital contexts. Or as Nymi says: “Put your heart into it. With every beat of your heart, the Nymi unlocks a world of possibilities.” It is also an excellent example of the future of wearable computing. The complexity of logging into a digital environment disappears into the background when using wearable technologies. Technology is invisible. Technology is intimate. And this augments mankind.

Sander Duivestein

About

Sander Duivestein (1971) is a highly acclaimed and top-rated trendwatcher, an influential author, an acclaimed keynote speaker, a digital business entrepreneur, and a strategic advisor on disruptive innovations. His main focus is the impact of new technologies on people, businesses and society.

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