Wired’s Mat Honan describes the password as a “secret that can ruin your life.” Last year he was the victim of a hacker that destroyed his entire digital life in the span of an hour. Honan and others have urged the tech industry to kill the password and they might be getting their wish soon. This year a group of companies, including Google and PayPal, announced the FIDO Alliance with hopes of creating standards that will allow users the option to replace passwords with authentication methods that are more secure and easier to use.
We don’t know which authentication type will replace the password yet, but your body will play a key role in any new identify platform. Biometrics, the science of identifying a person by their unique body features, has been around for a long time and now advances in technology are making it more practical for online identification and mobile device security.
A Toronto-based company called Bionym recently started taking pre-orders for Nymi, a wearable product that measures a user’s electrocardiogram (ECG), which is a recording and interpretation of the electrical activity of the heart over a period of time. Like a fingerprint, your heartbeat is unique since it is affected by such things as the heart’s size, its shape and its position in the body.
However, Nymi should be much more secure than a traditional fingerprint scanner which can be easily bypassed. The Nymi product is unique because it relies on a 3-factor security system. Users need to be in control of a Nymi, their unique heartbeat, and an Authorized Authentication Device (AAD), which would be a smartphone or other mobile device registered with their app.
Every time a user puts on the Nymi, it captures their heart beat and then it’s able to communicate with and unlock any devices that it’s registered with. A promotional video for Nymi demonstrates how it could be used for automatic device unlocking, secure mobile payments, and proximity based control for other smart devices. Nymi also recognizes gestures and its distance from different electronic devices, so developers could enable some pretty cool interactions with other devices.
Dr. Karl Martin, Bionym’s CEO, tells The Verge that the Nymi doesn’t even have to be a bracelet. “It could be a ring, a necklace, a waistband, anything. The wristband is just the first idea. We’ll see what people want to do.”
I’m a huge fan of wearable technology and I hate remembering passwords, so I can’t wait to see how Nymi performs in the real world. Pre-orders are taking place right now for $79 and units ship early in 2014, so we won’t have to wait much longer for heartbeats to play an important role in mobile security.
Have you ever used any forms of biometric security? Would you be willing to wear a wristband or other form of technology if it increased your security? Please share your experiences with us on our blog or our Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you.