Thursday, January 26, 2017

Soon your heartbeat may be used to authenticate your health care records

Heartbeat graphic

Fingerprint are the most widely used form of biometric authentication, sometimes layered with iris scan or voice recognition for extra security. A future is not far away where your electrocardiogram (ECG) signals will be encrypted, and then decrypted for authentication and access to your medical records.

Heart ECG signals are received as wave patterns. They are unique to a person, based on one’s heart size, shape, and the orientation of the heart valves. The wave signals stay the same, regardless of how fast the heart is beating. ECG authentication is simpler than other techniques that rely on complex mathematical calculations and access key generation. 

There is one limitation however – one’s ECG signals change as one ages, or if one develops heart disease. Scientists are working to take these changes into account, and in the process advance the use of the ECG as a primary authentication method.

Many people use fitness monitors to keep track of their steps and heart rate. The next evolution may be wearing a device that monitors body data for diagnosis or overall health and sends ECG signals to a doctor’s office. The wearer’s EGC signals would also be used to authenticate and allow access to their records online. It’s easy to imagine that knowing their doctor’s awareness and attention is that much closer could give someone with heart disease a feeling of security, and possibly a little more freedom.

By Tarun Mittal, Christian Post Contributor, January 24, 2017

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Can your fingerprints really be stolen from your Facebook photos?

Photo of young women taking a selfie photo

With the improved resolution of digital photography, the answer is… possibly. A researcher from the National Institute of Informatics has successfully obtained fingerprints from a photograph taken 3 meters (almost 10 feet) away from the subject. That peace sign you flash at the high pixel cell phone camera for your Facebook selfie might allow a thief to steal your identity, especially with a good photo of your face and the personal information you’ve entered into Facebook.

In 2014, hacker Jan Krissler recreated the fingerprints of the German defense minister Ursula von der Leyen. He used high resolution photos, including one from a press release from her own office, and one he snapped himself at close range. With the photos and a commercial fingerprint software he was able to reverse engineer an identifiable fingerprint.

While you may not be a high value target for thieves, your fingerprint information is static, so it’s worth protecting. If stolen, it could potentially be used fraudulently against you for the rest of your lifetime. It's good to know fingerprints are often used with passwords for an extra layer of security in biometric authentication. It's also a good idea to keep learning about changing technology. That way you’ll know what to do – or in this case what not to do to protect yourself.

Protect yourself from fingerprint theft in selfies, says Professor. No, really!

Sheetal Kumbhar for VanillaPlus, January 16, 2017 

Hacker fakes German minister's fingerprints using photos of her hands 

Alex Hern for The Guardian, December 30, 2014

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

New Study: Make TSA PreCheck free to save time and money

Long security line at NYC airport

A new study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign suggests making TSA PreCheck registration free would save the agency millions of dollars a year. TSA PreCheck enrollment allows travelers entry to expedited security lines and freedom from shedding shoes, belts and light jackets, and fussing with laptops.

Signing up with the TSA PreCheck program requires fingerprinting, an FBI background check, and an $85 processing fee. As of December 2016, there were 12 million enrolled in the program. The TSA has a goal of 25 million travelers enrolled by 2019. The U of I study recommends making enrollment free – at least for frequent flyers – to save millions of dollars, and help the TSA reach their goal. 

The study finds that it’s 4 times more efficient to screen passengers though PreCheck than the usual slow airport security lines. Twenty-five million people enrolled in the Precheck program would result in 300 million faster screenings per year, with an estimated $459 million savings. Allowing frequent travelers to enroll for free would cost an estimated $425 million a year, resulting in a net savings of $34 million.

The fee is not the only barrier to enrollment. Some might find fingerprinting and an FBI check intrusive. Some might not like the hassle of the time and the special trip to an enrollment facility. However, a recent Airlines for America survey found that significantly more people reported a better travel experience with the use of expedited screening programs: 49% for PreCheck, and 67% for the Global Entry program (expedited clearance for entry into the US), as compared to 35% of travelers overall.

Making airport PreCheck free could save TSA millions: report 

Mary Wisniewski, Contact Reporter for the Chicago Tribune, December 5, 2016