by Robert McMillan

Authentication Technology Uses Typing Rhythm

Aug 01, 20062 mins
IT Strategy

What’s the best way to ID a DJ? This is a question that John Heaven thought long and hard about three years ago, when his company, Musicrypt, was trying to create a better way for record companies to get their music into the hands of the reviewers and radio stations.

In the past this had been done by mailing thousands of CDs and press kits, but Heaven knew that online distribution would be faster and less expensive. That’s when some little-known research, begun by Allied intelligence services during World War II, saved the day.

During the war, the Allies discovered they could track German telegraph operators by identifying each operator’s unique style of typing code, something known as “the fist of the sender.” Forty years later, researchers took this discovery to the computer keyboard and found that individuals could also be identified by the rhythm of their typing.

The technology for making these identifications eventually landed in the hands of the company BioPassword. After taking about nine samples of an eight- to 16-keystroke password, the company’s software is able to identify the “fist” of the ¿typist about 98 percent of the time. Musicrypt decided to use the software to authenticate anyone who accesses its tunes.

Now BioPassword hopes to make inroads with financial services companies, capitalizing on growing fears of fraud and identity theft, as well as federal guidelines that call for banks to beef up their online authentication techniques by year’s end.

The software is being used by a number of smaller regional banks, including Washington State’s CharterBank, San Antonio City Employees Federal Credit Union and the Automotive Federal Credit Union in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Nevertheless, the company has to prove itself as a credible alternative to more established competitors such as RSA Security, says Andrew Jaquith, senior analyst with Yankee Group Research. “I think they’re going to have some challenges getting over the credibility gap,” he says. “But it has the benefit of being simple, and simple is good.”