Heartbeats Instead of Passwords
Security company Bionym makes public a new authentication device in the form of a bracelet. The gadget is a miniature electrocardiogram that replaces passwords with the owner’s unique heartbeat pattern to log into computers, make payments or get into cars.
The login bracelet, called Nymi, reads the electrocardiogram of the person wearing it. When the heartbeat pattern is confirmed, the bracelet becomes an authentication device that can access computer networks, computers, hotel room doors, and airport kiosks.
It is a three-factor authentication system comprised of a bracelet, a paired mobile device and a verified ECG of the bracelet owner.
The official promo video for Nymi advertises the idea of a private life that opens up to the owner via this futuristic bracelet that unlocks house doors, car trunks, computers, applications, helps pay for drinks or provides authentication for boarding tickets. All interactions should be easy and secure since marketers promise “complete security without compromising convenience.”
However, an all-around authentication device will intrigue hackers and motivate them to breach the device. What happens if, for instance, someone gets his hands on the heartbeat pattern and the bracelet? What about intercepting the communication between the bracelet and the doors, computers, cars during authentication?
Karl Martin, CEO of Nymi creator Bionym, told Arstechnica that “the device hasn’t yet undergone a formal security audit but it has been designed to withstand attacks.” The device “uses elliptic curve cryptography to ensure data traveling between the bracelet and the device can’t be monitored by anyone else.” Martin also said “the encryption secures the handshake performed between the bracelet and the devices being unlocked.”
Innovation is a trend. In June, Motorola presented two new electronic authentication prototypes, a tattoo and an FDA-approved pill, that make the human body transmit passwords to smart devices in an attempt to mark the beginning of a new wearable and edible technology.