London: British scientists have claimed to
have developed a software that enables keyboard to identify
the user and his state of mind, a discovery that may make
passwords and other security systems things of past.
The software, developed by Mike Dowman and colleagues at
the University of Abertay in the UK, use 36 characters of
login details in 42,840 attempts. The software was able to
detect 97.2 per cent of the users correctly.
It can also detect stress level of the user by the speed
and rhythm of his typing? For example people press a key
shorter on average but they hit it hard and for long when
stressed, journal New Scientist reported.
Dowman suggested the software could be used by retailers
or banks to detect whether you are logging into your account
under extreme stress or duress.
"There`s no question: people do type differently under
stress," he said.
He believed, "Security systems could be designed to
raise the alarm if it seems that a person might be being
forced to log into a system, whether a cash machine or online
account, however more research will be needed before a system
could tell if a person is, say, just having a bad day or being
held at gunpoint".
Neil Barrett, a computer security consultant and
visiting professor at the Centre for Forensic Computing and
Security at Cranfield University, UK, said the Abertay
system`s success rate is similar to other biometric systems in
use, such as voice prints or the fingerprint scanners built
With further improvements to typing-style recognition,
passwords may no longer be needed for some systems, he said,
adding "you can take the identification characteristics of the
way they type in their user name."
The Abertay group have received patents on their ideas
about detecting signs of a stressful environment in a person`s
In the study, the team asked 35 people to log into a
computer 36 times over three separate sessions up to a month
apart, using the same user name and password.
People were put into stressed and neutral states
alternately by listening to a range of sounds known to elicit
particular emotions and heard either heard gentle paper
crumpling or arguing couples and emergency sirens.
The length of time each key was held down and the
interval between one being released and another pressed was
recorded to generate a typing "fingerprint" for each person.
Electrodes were attached to the typists` hands to detect
sweating, a sign of stress also exploited by lie detectors.
First Published: Friday, January 08, 2010, 17:32