A Password Free World: Zero-Interaction Authentication

Passwords have long been used to protect information online. However, as hackers, thieves, and other scam artists have continually demonstrated, they are not always 100% secure. For this reason, one university is working on a new way to protect information without passwords. If they succeed, a password free world may be possible.

This new process, called zero-interaction authentication, allows access to a device without actually having to physically interact with it. Here is how this new (potential) privacy system would work. The principle device ‘senses’ a wireless authentication key and, therefore, does not need a password to be entered. An existing example of this technology can be found in the automotive industry. The car senses when the key is close by, which allows the person with the key to open and start the vehicle without actually inserting the key. Apps are being developed that allow for a similar process between a phone and a computer.

This method isn’t foolproof, as it comes with its own set of risks. For example, hackers can potentially access the primary device via relay attacks. To successfully hack into the primary device, then becomes a two man job, with one person staying close to the wireless authentication key in order to boost and relay the signal to his or her accomplice. For this reason, developers are working to make the system more secure, while not overly complicating the process for the end user.

Utilizing different sensors like Wi-Fi, GPS, or Bluetooth, with other sensors that check factors like humidity and temperature, help ensure that the device and access key are, in fact, in the same location. The multiplicity of sensors and what each checks for, greatly improves the overall security of the process. While one sensor might not be enough, several used in conjunction are far more secure.

These types of sensors may become more common for smart phones. The potential exists to use apps on your smartphone in order to access your car or computer safely, all without entering a password. Coupled with existing biometric security measures like fingerprint scans on smartphones, in tech terms a password free world is not only possible, it is likely.