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Security Is Always Changing

One of the plagues of the technological age is memorising an increasing number of passwords and codes, numbers and secret/memorable things.

It’s not that security and common sense doesn’t demand such safeguards, but the fact is that so much now requires such checks (many increasingly complicated with a required number of upper/lower case, numbers, under_scorings) is a problem as people can’t always remember.

Too Much to Remember

Older people, those with little natural affinity with numbers and all ages resistant to the tyranny of codes, look set to be more engulfed with more sophisticated coding from cashpoints to smart-phones. More and more of them demand changing and updating regularly.

As long ago as 2008, Trinity College Dublin published an estimate that the average person had to recall five passwords, five PINs, three security numbers, three bank account numbers and a pair of vehicle number-plates. Since then, it has got worse.

Relief may be at hand, though, with the advent of new technology from Google and Apple. Late December, Apple revealed that they had applied to the US Patent and Trademark Office to protect software that will allow both iPhone and iPad users to access their gadgets via face recognition.

The Apple Insider blog explains that ‘using a forward-facing camera to recognize an individual user, future iPhones and iPads from Apple could automatically customize applications, settings and features to a user’s personal preferences once they pick up the device’.

Part of the Face is Enough

The blog says that all users could customise their personal profiles with unique wallpaper, applications and settings, with their profiles accessed as soon as the device recognises the users’ faces. So they would not activate for a stranger (thief). ‘High information portions’ are picked out, rather than the entire face. The features are the distance between the eyes, size and shape of nose and the lips, and they will be compared with stored photo images.

The process will use less power than full facial comparisons designed to work in variable lighting conditions and can remain active all the time the device is on, and is similar to the face recognition tool available in Android. But already there is a development beyond that, not to mention the fact that some people claimed the system could be defeated by showing it a picture of the owner.

Researchers at New York University’s Polytechnic Institute have made a claim for a device that distinguish between human users by ‘sensing the way they move their fingers on the touchscreen’. The motion of a signature, the familiarities of handwriting, underpins the technology.

The whole facial recognition system is only part of the contemporary arsenal of security devices, to identify or verify people automatically from a video source, a facial database. It dovetails with biometrics like iris, finger/thumb prints and ear lobes.

But as nothing is foolproof, or at least for very long, we should all hope that facial recognition is never the sole security mechanism on offer. Big Brother/intrusive government surveillance fears aside, it is preferable to implanting chips into all newborn babies.

The PIN is here to stay for a time yet.