UVic engineers have patented a system that can create user profile by how someone uses a keyboard and mouse. The technology has drawn sharp interest from national governments.

Reading the rhythms of your keyboard

A new biometric technology makes it possible to identify the person behind the monitor based on keystroke habits and mouse movements alone.

Crumbs in the keyboard or questionable web browsing history aren’t the only ways to tell who’s been using your computer. A newly patented biometric technology makes it possible to identify the person at the monitor based on keystroke habits and mouse movements alone.

Potential for the technology, developed over the last 12 years by Issa Traore, University of Victoria professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering and his former PhD student Ahmed Ahmed, reaches well beyond the realm of surveilling a home office. The security of Internet banking, military communications and online testing stand to be revolutionized through the technology.

It works by capturing and profiling user rhythms on the keyboard and mouse. This profile is then used to lock out any other users from that account or computer.

When applied to password logins, the security protocol can identify users within five or six seconds based on how they type in their password. Even if someone else types in your password, its unlikely they could match the subtle differences in keystroke timing and behaviour.

It can also be set to continuously monitor a computer between login and logout – an application that requires about three to seven minutes of computer use, depending on how many keystrokes or mouse movements are made.

In the event an intended user is called away from a work station and another user attempts to use the computer, the technology will immediately recognize an unintended user and lock them out.

Biometric technology, which compares physical or behavioral traits to a database, includes fingerprint, facial or retinal scans – methods of identification which can be flawed by a person’s physical, rather than behavioural changes.

“Instead of a more traditional biometric system, like retinal or fingerprint recognition, that requires expensive hardware and is limited by users only being able to access the network from a specific computer, our system can be used by anyone from any location,” Traore said.

The system could solve the problem for universities of verifying student identification for high-level exams.

“This is also very accurate way of ensuring a student (taking an online exam) hasn’t given their password to someone else to take the exam, because right now we don’t have any other way to do that,” he said.

In addition to development via 200 users at UVic, Traore tested the technology with software installed on his own home computer, where his 15-year-old son was recently locked out after he attempted to login under another family member’s unrestricted user account.

The system has logged a 98 per cent success rate at UVic on a standard keyboard and mouse. Traore said they are working to adapt the technology to touch screens and tablet computers.

“This technology has the potential to solve a big problem and that problem is identity theft … and hacking,” said Chris Flores, industry liaison officer for UVic Industry Partnerships, an arm’s length branch of the university devoted to helping protect intellectual properties or new innovations developed on campus.

Flores assisted Traore and Ahmed in forming Plurilock Security Solutions Inc. after Traore approached UVic Industry Partnerships in 2004.

“(Plurilock) is pioneering the concept of continuous authentication technology,” Flores noted.

The technology was U.S. patent approved earlier this month, while a Canada patent remains pending.

Already it has sparked global interest from a range of investors, including Brazilian post-secondary institutions interested in online testing, and the government of Canada, where it is being considered for use in the fields of law enforcement and health care. A Japanese telecommunications company was one of Plurilock’s first clients.

Traore hopes next to apply the innovation to tightening Internet banking security.

nnorth@saanichnews.com

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Oak Bay council places 60-day protection order on Island Road house

Developer pulled heritage agreement over ‘exorbitant’ $417,000 fees

Saanich council to dig into long-awaited garden suite study

Detached suites keep families close, provide financial flexibility, mayor says

BIPOC artists come together to paint mural highlighting racial injustice in Bastion Square

‘More Justice, More Peace’ to go beyond cycle of hurt and sadness

Victoria man charged in stabbing death of Vancouver overdose prevention worker

Maximus Roland Hayes, 23, is facing one count of manslaughter in connection to the killing

Firefighters tackle medium-sized grass fire on rural Saanich property

Saanich Fire Department issues warm weather fire safety reminder

VIDEO: Greater Victoria police officers try bhangra dancing with social media star

Gurdeep Pandher leads bhangra lesson on front lawn of the BC Legislature building

Captain Horvat’s OT marker lifts Canucks to 4-3 win over Blues

Vancouver takes 2-0 lead in best-of-7 NHL playoff series with St. Louis

Widow of slain Red Deer doctor thanks community for support ahead of vigil

Fellow doctors, members of the public will gather for a physically-distanced vigil in central Alberta

Taking dog feces and a jackhammer to neighbourhood dispute costs B.C. man $16,000

‘Pellegrin’s actions were motivated by malice …a vindictive, pointless, dangerous and unlawful act’

Racist stickers at Keremeos pub leaves group uneasy and angry

The ‘OK’ hand gesture is a known hate-symbol

VIDEO: World responds to B.C. girl after pandemic cancels birthday party

Dozens of cards and numerous packages were delivered to six-year-old Charlie Manning

Expected fall peak of COVID-19 in Canada could overwhelm health systems: Tam

National modelling projections released Friday show an expected peak in cases this fall

Hundreds of sea lions to be killed on Columbia River in effort to save endangered fish

Nearly 22,000 comments received during public review were opposed, fewer than 200 were for

Most Read