Better Passwords Are a Heartbeat Away

Researchers come up with a way for EKGs to encrypt personal health data.


I know I'm not the only one who finds passwords frustrating. It seems like I'm either using the same password for everything or else I'm coming up with something new only to find it impossibly difficult to remember later.

Researchers from Binghamton University in New York may have come up with a solution to this password pain, at least when it comes to protecting personal electronic health data: They're using the unique electrical patterns of a patient's heart as an encryption key to the individual's personal electronic health data.

Researchers attach a simple biosensor to the skin, making it possible to measure the electrical activity of the heart like you would with a standard electrocardiogram (also known as an EKG or ECG) test. That individual ECG signal, routinely collected to understand a patient’s health, is then treated as biometric data for encryption.

The study is just one of several the university is conducting that are blending work in areas like cognitive biometrics and mobile computing to apply to security. Other "password potential" areas include an individual's brain waves and the echo a person's skull makes

In an article discussing the research, it's noted that cost and complexity of traditional encryption systems often put them out of reach for most telemedicine and mobile healthcare applications. Relying on biometric data often can aid privacy at much less cost.

(Just think: The smacking of palms against your head as you try to remember your password may actually work some day!) 

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