A new security feature is being investigated by Stanford and Northwestern researchers where test subjects are unwittingly taught a series of keystrokes that can be uniquely identified when repeated during a laptop or mobile device login.
Subjects are trained to make keystrokes that coincide with a moving visual cue, a disk falling past a line on the screen, for example. The pattern repeats, and the test subjects learn the pattern that can then be repeated more easily.
Researchers call it serial interception sequence learning, and it's kind of like playing a game or even learning to ride a bicycle. But the point is, scientists are using this type of training to see if the process could be used to improve login security over the popular but flawed password feature.
Passwords are handy because people understand how they work and they are inexpensive to set up. For companies like Dropbox, Skype, LinkedIn and Pinterest, there are obvious drawbacks as recent hacking attempts have made clear.
While enterprises like Bit9 are investing in IT security applications, people still have to enter in a password on the front end. Too often, those passwords are of the weak four digit variety or are shared with too many other people.
Researchers from the above study are investigating sequence learning because it would be hard to steal from someone. In other words, even if someone where to try and force you to give them your passcode, it would be hard to explain because it's not just a series of letters and numbers.
The laptop or mobile device that had the sequence learning security feature installed would be able to tell if the person entering the keystrokes was the authorized person or not based on how precisely they duplicated the correct keystrokes.
Next Generation Security Features
Sequence learning might not be a great password alternate for say, checking email, but other new security features are constantly being tested. Apple bought a company called AuthenTec Inc recently, and the technology purchased in that deal could yield a fingerprint security offering for iPhones and iPads.
Furthermore, Rutgers university researchers are experimenting with a biometric security feature in the form of a ring that can transmit data through human skin. Facial recognition still holds promise despite the obvious drawback of simply holding up someone's picture to fool the camera.
One other possibily we are intrigued by is the as yet unreleased Leap sensor from LeapMotion. It looks to be the most sensitive motion control device yet availible, and the company is rumored to be working on security features based on gestures. One commentor on the website Gizmag even went so far as to claim he had been a flatmate of the Leap founders, and had seen the device up close. The rumor is the sensor can detect a person's pulse. Tell us in the comments if you use two step authentication for your Google accounts or if you use other programs to keep track of your passwords.