The new face of biometric access control

Passfaces’ authentication tool relies on the brain’s ability to know faces

Getting computers to recognize human faces is a multibillion-dollar business. One small company, though, is approaching the authentication problem from another direction by using computers to take advantage of the human brain’s facial-recognition ability.

Facial recognition is hardwired into the brain from infancy, said Paul Barrett, chief executive officer of Passfaces. The human brain can recognize familiar faces in 20 one-thousandths of a second without conscious effort, he said.

Passfaces’ software works on any computer with a graphical user interface, Barrett said. It creates a “passface” using a sequence of three to seven faces. Users see the images of the faces mixed in with eight decoy faces in a three-by-three grid. They must click on the faces in the correct order to gain access.

With passfaces, people don’t have to worry about remembering passwords or carrying tokens, Barrett said.

People are wary of the company’s approach, called cognometrics, because it’s so novel, said Jonathan Penn, a principal analyst at Forrester Research. But passfaces offer a superior alternative to passwords for single-factor authentication and don’t require physical tokens, which people can lose, he said.

The incidence of people forgetting their passfaces is extraordinarily low, Penn said. After he signed up, he didn’t return to the company’s Web site for a month, yet he got all the faces right the first time, he said.

The faces are assigned at random so algorithms can’t figure them out other than by brute-force attacks, Barrett said. Phishers would have to have a copy of all Passfaces’ example faces to fool users, he said.

For example, a user given five faces to remember has 95 possible combinations, or a 1 in 59,049 chance that someone else could randomly pick the same faces, Barrett said. That provides much more security than a four-digit PIN, which has only 10,000 possible combinations, he said.

The technology is immune to spyware, phishing and social engineering because remembering faces can’t be shared the way words or numbers can, Penn said. “This is something I couldn’t give away if I wanted to,” he added.

Passfaces’ software-only product suits situations in which people want to improve authentication without adding hardware, Penn said. “They don’t want something as cumbersome or as expensive as a token or smart card,” he said. It would also help business-to-business Web sites that deal with financial or other sensitive data.

The technology does have downsides, Penn said. It is less secure than a physical token and is susceptible to hackers who can look over the user’s shoulder to see the faces the user picks. People worried about such “shoulder surfing” should use physical tokens that provide one-time passwords instead, he said.

Cognometrics could disrupt current ID technology, replacing the majority of passwords and PINs used in nearly all online transactions, Barrett said.

Passfaces hopes to form partnerships with RSA Security, VeriSign, IBM and other companies to have them deploy its product as part of broader authentication solutions, Barrett said.

Bharosa provides virtual authentication

Bharosa is taking a new spin — and slide — on password and personal identification number input devices to improve the security of online authentication.

Bharosa Authenticator includes seven Virtual Authentication Devices that permit users to enter their password and PIN data securely, said Jon Fisher, the company’s chief executive officer. The program opens a window in which users click characters on a virtual keyboard or number pad.

Some devices include personalized text messages that confirm that the pop-up windows come from authorized sources. The tools use robust encryption to make each transaction unique and prevent anyone else from using the information to gain access, Fisher said.

Bharosa’s flagship device, Slider, requires first-time users to pick a symbol and click on arrow keys to slide it under characters of an alphanumeric password or PIN, Fisher said. On subsequent entry attempts, the software will grant access only if users enter all letters and numbers with the correct symbol. Bharosa also has a Wheel device that requires users to spin concentric wheels to input characters.

The technology thwarts phishing and other social engineering attacks by requiring users to perform actions only humans can do, Fisher said. The devices also sidestep spyware that grabs cookies and logs keystrokes, mouse clicks and screen captures, he said.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.