With the wave of a hand, Intel wants to do away with passwords

SAN FRANCISCO Thu Sep 13, 2012 3:13pm EDT

A woman walks past an Intel logo at the 2012 Computex in Taipei June 5, 2012. REUTERS/Yi-ting Chung

A woman walks past an Intel logo at the 2012 Computex in Taipei June 5, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Yi-ting Chung

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Passwords for online banking, social networks and email could be replaced with the wave of a hand if prototype technology developed by Intel makes it to tablets and laptops.

Aiming to do away with the need to remember passwords for growing numbers of online services, Intel researchers have put together a tablet with new software and a biometric sensor that recognizes the unique patterns of veins on a person's palm.

"The problem with passwords -- we use too many of them, their rules are complex, and they differ for different websites," Sridhar Iyengar, director of security research at Intel Labs, said at the annual Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco on Thursday. "There is a way out of it, and biometrics is an option."

Iyengar demonstrated the technology, quickly waving his hand in front of a tablet but not touching it. Once the tablet recognizes a user, it can securely communicate that person's identity to banks, social networks and other services where the person has accounts, he said.

Making laptops, tablets and smartphones responsible for identifying users would take that requirement away from individual websites and do away with the need to individually enter passwords into each of them, Iyengar said.

"We plan to work with service providers to take full advantage of this," he said.

A device using the technology would use built-in accelerometers to detect when a user puts it down, and would then log its owner off to keep unauthorized people from getting in.

The palm-identification technology was one of several demonstrations during a keynote address by Intel Chief Technology Officer Justin Rattner at the forum. Rattner runs Intel Labs, which focuses on identifying and solving future technology problems.

Rattner also showed prototype technology to improve cell-phone base stations and to efficiently and wirelessly connect devices such as printers, tablets and monitors throughout the home.

He debuted a prototype microchip with wifi technology made with digital circuitry instead of analog, a development that has the potential to lead to major improvements in performance and efficiency.

The palm-reading technology, still under development, requires new software and biometric sensors built into consumer devices, but does not require the development of any new kinds of chips, Rattner said.

The technology works much better than the finger-print scanners found on some laptops today, he said.

(Reporting By Noel Randewich; editing by John Wallace)

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Comments (4)
T0M wrote:
aww c’mon! This is crying out for a headline like: “Intel sees the future with palm-reading” or “Intel has vein hopes for the future” or…something.

Sep 13, 2012 4:43pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
matthewslyman wrote:
Some of this is moderately interesting, but most is mere posing by Intel (this “article” looks like a company PR press release) to make it look as though they have a realistic chance of competing in the tablet market near-term…

Allow me to explain.

Biometrics? Potentially interesting, but this is basically nothing Intel’s competitors cannot duplicate using other biometrics. As far as I am aware, Intel:
• Did not invent biometrics,
• Did not invent handprint reading biometrics,
• Did not invent the fundamental mathematics necessary to use biometrics (e.g. hand-prints) in this way.
So this press release (for Intel PR purposes) is riding on the back of many other people’s hard work.
They also forgot to mention that if you can gain root access to the device, then it’s “game over” for biometrics (in fact, biometrics are also vulnerable to spoofing attacks where the hand-print reading operation is simulated.)

Using accelerometers (or built-in cameras etc.) to influence login session time-out/ device locking? Sorry but this is very obvious (I’m also shaking my head at Apple here, who recently patented something similar.) It often seems as though the USPTO is willing to grant patents for ideas representing any combination of “Someone else’s invention A combined with someone else’s invention B…”

Femtocell/peer-to-peer network relay? Again, as far as I’m aware, Intel HAS done work in this area, but they again “forget” to mention that most of the work done in this area is by others… Some of this work is quite old now. Yet in this Intel press release (which appears almost raw, come on Reuters), it sounds almost as though Intel came up with this idea recently!

So, why did Intel bother with this? What’s their REAL purpose in making this press release?
They’re getting left for dust by ARM in the tablet market (ARM supplies Apple, Samsung, HTC and others). Intel and their comparatively power-hungry chips (which are hamstrung with an archaic, fundamentally less efficient instruction set) are basically locked out of the tablet market. So, they have to find some way of convincing us all that if we buy an Intel based tablet, that device will have a future…

Sep 13, 2012 4:57pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Pedant wrote:
Biometrics as backup for passphrases (e.g. you need the hand AND the passphrase to unlock the laptop) are potentially good for many applications. Biometrics alone are not good – it’s rather impractical to replace my hand every time an unauthorized person reads it.

Sep 13, 2012 6:19pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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