Life without passwords

11 January 2011

A new service enables Internet users to use a scan of their fingerprint as a password.

This service, called FingerID, has been developed by Sara Alotaibi; who has just completed a Masters degree in Web Technology at the University of Southampton's School of Electronics and Computer Science.

“FingerID provides users with the facility to maintain multiple Web accounts from a single source using a fingerprint scan, and eliminates their concerns about having to remember multiple usernames and passwords,” said Alotaibi.

In order to develop FingerID, Alotaibi evaluated existing and proposed systems geared towards replacing the conventional form of authentication using a username and password on the Internet, and found that very little work had been undertaken in this field.

After evaluating systems against criteria such as security, accessibility and usability, she generated a concept which could fundamentally alter the entire authentication mechanism; replacing memorised passwords with fingerprint data. This laid the foundation for FingerID.

The system is programmed to request the user’s fingerprint scan for registration purposes. Following registration, the user can then gain access to multiple Internet accounts under one service. The registration process of the user will only take place once, and later scans will be used to verify the user to provide access to web accounts. The FingerID system is composed of two main parts; website and software (browser).

“The username/password authentication mechanism is no longer fit for purpose, so FingerID has come at a good time,” said Alotaibi. “We propose a cost-effective, convenient and secure authentication-solution for undertaking secure dealings over the Internet. It will allow web users to authenticate their identity in a hassle-free manner and go about their activities in a secure environment without the fear of loss of identity and money.”

Alotaibi is now developing her approach further in her PhD (supervised by Dr. David Argles and Dr. Mike Wald in the ECS Learning Societies Lab) and will look at using other aspects of authentication such as palm prints and face gestures.

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