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‘Active Authentication’ Might Replace Passwords Soon

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The average computer user has 27 passwords and it can be tough to keep track of them all. Researchers are working on a solution.

It involves using sensors in our phone to track our unique biometrics from the way we swipe to the way we walk.

All professor Vishal Patel did was ask a student to walk across campus at Rutger’s University then hand his phone to another student who walked back. The little difference in how they walked back was enough for the phone’s accelerometer to detect someone else was using the phone.

“You had two different people walking in the same path but as you can see their signatures are very different,” said Patel.

Researchers like Patel are trying to use biometrics to make our devices more secure with a process called “active authentication” that constantly and passively monitors the user.

The phone was also trained to recognize the unique way its owner scrolls down the screen. So, let’s say you want to use another person’s phone but it will be able to tell just by you swiping the phone if you’re the owner of the phone or not. If you’re not, in just two swipes, it will lock.

Why isn’t this active authentication active yet?

It could drain our batteries, or fail to work in certain settings. For example, the camera can’t see you in the dark and some of the methods, like tracking our pattern of life, could turn off users.

“Once you have this information, you can sort of learn where the person will end up in the afternoon or at night,” said Patel.

It’s something that some consider creepy.

“It is creepy, but it is very powerful,” said Patel.

Joseph Atick helped invent facial recognition technology 25 years ago but today, he says tracking users is so valuable to marketers that tech companies can’t be trusted to self-regulate their use of biometrics.

“I believe it’s inevitable,” said Atick. “What guarantees me someone isn’t using my biometric data to do surveillance on me?”

Questions like that will need to be answered soon.

Researchers believe biometric data could start replacing our passwords in the next few years.

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