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.




Just Posted

At the age of 95, local bowler shows no signs of slowing down

Olive Olmsted has bowled for more than 55 years

Colwood wins Victoria Flower Count for a five-peat

The 43rd annual Flower Count had over three billion blossoms counted in total

Royal Bay junior boys bring back lacrosse banner

The Ravens sent three teams to the provincial championships

Langford fundraiser for kidney disease is a success

Maureen Hobbs thinks B.C. Transplant says it best: “Live life. Pass it on.”

Preschool group helps release fish into Glen Lake

The number of fish released correlates to the number of fish caught per year

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

Anti-pipeline protestors block Kinder Morgan tanker near Seattle

Protest was spurred on by the 28 anti-Kinder Morgan activists arrested in Burnaby

Women’s Expo seeks to empower women this weekend

Victoria Women’s Expo set for Saturday and Sunday at Pearkes Recreation Centre

Mount Douglas Mathletes enjoying success by the numbers

Saanich Grade 9s walk away with top five spots in Island math competition

B.C. cyclist races to first win of the season in New Zealand

Casey Brown captures Enduro title by more than two minutes at Crankworx Rotorua

Notorious Russian troll farm also took swipes at Canadian targets

Targets included oil infrastructure and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Cirque du Soleil aerialist dies after fall during Florida show

Longtime performer fell while performing in VOLTA

Some surprises in new book about B.C. labour movement

“On the Line” charts history of the union movement back to the 1800s

Canada earns second Paralympic Games silver in 20 years

Held 1-0 lead in para hockey game from 12:06 of first to dying seconds of third and lost in overtime

Most Read