infoTECH Feature

October 15, 2012

Could Passwords One Day be as Easy as Eye Twitches?

Computer security is a continually evolving phenomenon. It used to be enough to have just one word as a password. Then, as the methods for brute force password cracking improved, numbers and letters became popular. Numbers, letters, assorted random characters, all in 10 to 20 character strings emerged that were so complex that people had little choice but to violate the security measures they themselves established by writing them down. New technology, however, has recently emerged from Texas State University that may yield a much simpler method, in the eye.

Oleg Komogortsev, the computer scientist working on the technology for Texas State University, says that there are actually enough differences in eye movements among individuals that they can in turn be used as an effective biometric for computer security. Of course, the technology is still in its earliest stages, and Komogortsev believes that it will take years of development before any kind of wide-scale commercial use can be discussed.

Image via Shutterstock

The technology is specifically geared toward replacing the iris scan by itself, which has been shown to be somewhat easily fooled in the past. While an iris scanner could actually be fooled with a sufficiently high-resolution printout of a human eye, a scanner system based on eye movements would be much, much more difficult to readily fool as it would depend not only on having the correct eye, but making it able to move, and move correctly.

Improving computer security is important to most everyone who uses a computer, or uses a password to protect most anything. While biometrics holds some promise, issues of privacy emerge, as well as the potential for misuse. Worse, as some researchers have found, they're even potentially flawed and can be beaten by other methods, making their value as a form of computer security questionable.

 Using biometrics is commonly regarded as a step up due to the fact that we've always got our fingerprints or our eyes or the like readily on hand--for the most part--so ease of use improves considerably. But thanks to the aforementioned issues, they're somewhat of a developing technology that won't be ready for prime-time for some time.

A kind of computer security that's both easy to use and strong against intrusion is a valuable piece of technology indeed, and while right now we're left to make do with letters, numbers, and characters, eventually we may well get a kind of password technology that can't just be guessed around or otherwise fooled. That's going to make computer use a lot safer, and put plenty of miscreants out of work.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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