We all know the problems with passwords. Users dislike being forced to keep creating new ones, and unfortunately, hackers manage to get hold of passwords – which allows them to impersonate the user. The service providers sometimes get hacked.
On the other hand, biometric identification has not taken off properly due to civil liberties and reliability issues.
The key-fobs that generate one-time codes are good, but they are dependent on additional pieces of hardware being carried, introducing additional cost and inconvenience. Also, their “keys” have to be stored in a global database such as RSA’s that was hacked in 2011 leading US defence contractor Lockheed Martin to blame RSA for a subsequent break-in.
A young East of England company has developed an entirely hardware-less system having the convenience of a mentally-held secret (users create a pattern or shape when enrolling), that is able to provide different codes every time they need to log in, be authenticated or provide their authorisation to perform an action.
The pictures show a matrix (which would be displayed on any device with a screen or even hard copy) filled with random numbers. Using their mental pattern, the user is able to read off a new code. The system is secure against shoulder-surfing or other threats.
The next time, the numbers in the matrix will be different, but using the same pattern, the user is able to create or extract a different code. A user may use a single pattern for all the different sites or accounts he/she needs to access – or he/she may choose to have different ones. The pattern and the software have the potential to replace all fixed passwords, PINs, credit/debit card PINs and other authorisation codes.
The technology’s entropy is mathematically superior to 6-character key-fob tokens, making it more secure.
The “secret ingredient” is how the mental pattern that is shared with the service provider is “stored” in fragments of which only certain parts are required – meaning that if a hacker were to break into the database, he/she would not find anything usable. This system is therefore significantly more difficult to break into than former industry standard systems like MS Active Directory.
The UK company is seeking consortia applying to Horizon Europe CL3 -2021 FCT-01-12 Online identity theft or similar calls. These could be other developers and existing authentication databases, including those operating in the fields of big data or financial services, as well as governmental and law-enforcement. The company has started making contact with the U.K.’s Police Digital Service.