Is swipe technology the future of authentication?

Is swipe technology the future of authentication?

Authentication might be getting easier for users and harder for intruders.  Because standard text passwords are easy to crack, researchers have been looking to biometrics such as fingerprints and even gestures to authenticate users.

Lockheed’s Mandrake Secure Gesture technology, demoed in 2013, uses a person’s touchscreen gestures --  which could include signing their initials, drawing a symbol, or any other type of finger swiping pattern  -- as a password.  The technology is sophisticated enough that if one’s secure authentication pattern is drawing a line from right to left, authentication will fail if the same line is drawn from left to right.

Now, the National Security Agency has reportedly tested Lockheed’s Mandrake solution, which tracks speed, acceleration and the curve of a user’s gestures on a touchscreen, according to a NextGov report.  This quicker, touch-based authentication also could save time during emergencies.  “If you are going 100 miles down the road, you are not going to enter a complex 12-character password to authenticate yourself,” Mears told NextGov.

Lockheed admitted, however, that it was unclear if NSA has operationally deployed Mandrake. 

Swiping authentication technologies have caught the attention of researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, who developed a software application called LatentGesture that would identify users through their swiping patterns.  LatentGesture would be able to measure the speed of one’s swipe, pressure and touch location by tapping into the touchscreen sensors and developing a “touch signature.” 

And a team at Yahoo was able to make the entire touch screen an image sensor that verifies body parts -- ears and palms, for example -- for authentication and access to the device, much like a fingerprint sensor.  The Bodyprint differs from costly fingerprint sensors – which require a great deal of precision – in that the entire surface area of the touch screen becomes a camera, in a sense.  By using a larger surface area to measure a body part, as opposed to the minuscule size of a fingerprint, the resolution can be reduced and quality does not have to be nearly as high as with fingerprint sensors. 

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.


  • Russia prying into state, local networks

    A Russian state-sponsored advanced persistent threat actor targeting state, local, territorial and tribal government networks exfiltrated data from at least two victims.

  • Marines on patrol (US Marines)

    Using AVs to tell friend from foe

    The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is looking for ways autonomous vehicles can make it easier for commanders to detect and track threats among civilians in complex urban environments without escalating tensions.

Stay Connected