The Sound of Your Skull Could Replace Your Passwords in the Future

April 26, 2016 | Kelly Tatera

A headset for augmented reality with a mobile device
Photo credit: Leonard Low/wikipedia (CC by SA 2.0)

A tad more secure than “password” or “123456.”

A password management company called SplashData released a list of the 25 worst passwords that are commonly used, including “password,” “123456,” and “qwerty” — certainly not the most secure choices.

However, researchers in the field of biometric security, which involves authentication techniques based on physical characteristics that can be automatically checked (think fingerprints and eye scanning), are working on innovative ways to keep our personal data safe.

Scientists in Germany have come up with a particularly unique new method for a password: the sound of your skull. Basically, the new system, called SkullConduct, would identify the way an individual’s skull vibrates in reaction to an ultrasonic signal because these skull vibrations could be just as unique as a fingerprint.

SEE ALSO: Amazon Filed a Patent to Replace Passwords with Selfies

"If recorded with a microphone, the changes in the audio signal reflect the specific characteristics of the user's head," the researchers write in the Journal of the ACM.

"Since the structure of the human head includes different parts such as the skull, tissues, cartilage, and fluids and the composition of these parts and their location differ between users, the modification of the sound wave differs between users as well."

In order to measure skull vibrations, some kind of headset or accessory is needed. The researchers are currently working with a Google Glass-style device, but eventually, the technology could be incorporated into smartphones. Then, users would simply hold up their phones like they were taking a call, and the skull vibrations could be used to prove their identity when logging into email, bank accounts, or gaining access to a restricted area.

According to Gizmodo’s Andrew Liszewski, the scientists have only used a small sample of 10 people to test the device so far. However, the new system impressively identified the correct user 97 percent of the time, using only the skull sounds.

As Hal Hodson from New Scientist reports, there still are a few problems to overcome. First, the device currently uses white noise as a trigger sound, so the researchers would have to figure out how to program the device to use a less shrill and irritating sound. Secondly, the system has to be able to deal with background noise, which is a factor that wasn’t considered in the current prototype.

Although the technology is still in the research stage, it definitely holds promise. If someone figures out your password, you’re pretty much out of luck, but hackers would have a much harder time faking the unique sound of your skull.

The team will be presenting at the Conference for Human-Computer Interaction in California in May.

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