Your body can be a good medium if you want to transfer confidential data like passwords. Wi-Fi connections and even wired connections can be hacked, but as of now, it is difficult to hack into a body-connection. Passwords and other confidential data can be transmitted with the help of your body and fingerprint sensors and touchpads on smartphones and laptops.
The computer scientists and electrical engineers working at the University of Washington call this process “on-body” transmission. This process authenticates when some device touches your body.
One of the team members explains the process like this: “Let’s say I want to open a door using an electronic smart lock. I can touch the doorknob and touch the fingerprint sensor on the phone and transmit my secret credentials through my body to open the door, without leaking that personal information over the air.”
This happens because low-frequency signals can easily travel through your body. These “electrical” signals are very low; they don’t give you a shock, they just use your body as a medium to travel from one device to another. Right now the amount of data that can be transmitted isn’t large: 50 bits per second from laptop touchpads and 25 bits per second from fingerprint sensors on your mobile phone – this much data transfer is enough for transmitting passwords.
So how does the doorknob example work?
Normally when you have a password-protected locking system on your door, the pin or the password is stored in the box. So whoever can hack your password-protected locking system, can enter your house. What if the password is stored on your mobile phone instead and without transferring that password onto the locking system, you cannot open the door? But while your password is travelling from your phone to your locking system, it can be intervened because it will be using a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth system to transmit the password from your phone to the locking system. Instead of sending the password through Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, your body can be used. You can touch the sensor on your doorknob with one hand and your fingerprint sensor on your phone with the other hand, and your password will travel from your phone to your door locking system, allowing your body to transmit the password.
With more and more devices beginning to interact with each other keeping your confidential data protected is going to be a big task. For example, when making a payment using your mobile phone, right now you use another network or a Bluetooth connection. With this technology, you will be able to use your body to transfer credit card information.
The technique of transferring passwords and confidential data using body instead of Bluetooth or Wi-Fi has been tested using an iPhone and a Lenovo laptop. It has been tested on 10 volunteers of different sizes. The research team presented its findings at the UbiComp 2016 conference in Germany.
Right now this technology is at its basic level. Soon will come a time when we will require authentication for various devices we use on a daily basis and we will need unique passwords for all the devices. In fact, we may have so many passwords that we may have to carry a device that will contain all those passwords. Then, transferring the right password from the device to the device that we want to access using the password, will be useful with this technique.