Now, researchers use human body to send more secure passwords than the air ones

As more and more devices get connected to the internet, the chances of them being exposed to hacking are very high. In order to keep them safe, you need to secure it with a strong password. However, over the air passwords such as via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth are still vulnerable to hacking.

To protect such passwords, a team of Indian-American engineers have developed a new technique that sends secure passwords through the human body using smartphone fingerprint sensors and laptop touchpads.

Anybody can interrupt a password or secret code passed over airborne radio waves making those communications vulnerable to hackers who can try and break the encrypted code.

Now, Seattle-based University of Washington computer scientists and electrical engineers have invented a way that uses benign, low-frequency transmissions created by fingerprint sensors and touchpads on consumer devices to send secure passwords through the human body.

“Fingerprint sensors have so far been used as an input device. What is cool is that we’ve shown for the first time that fingerprint sensors can be re-purposed to send out information that is confined to the body,” said senior author Shyam Gollakota, assistant professor of computer science and engineering.

These “on-body” transmissions provide a more safe way to communicate validating information between devices that touch parts of your body – such as a smart door lock or wearable medical device – and a phone or device that authenticates your identity by asking you to type in a password.

“Let’s say I want to open a door using an electronic smart lock,” said co-lead author Merhdad Hessar, an electrical engineering doctoral student. “I can touch the doorknob and touch the fingerprint sensor on my phone and transmit my secret credentials through my body to open the door, without leaking that personal information over the air.”

The method was tested by the research team on iPhone and other fingerprint sensors, as well as Lenovo laptop trackpads and the Adafruit capacitive touchpad.

The researchers were able to generate usable on-body transmissions on 10 different test subjects, of different weights, heights and body types. The method also worked when the subjects walked and moved their arms.

“We showed that it works in different postures like standing, sitting and sleeping,” said co-lead author Vikram Iyer, electrical engineering doctoral student. “We can also get a strong signal throughout your body. The receivers can be anywhere – on your leg, chest, hands – and still, work.”

In medical devices such as insulin pumps or glucose monitors, which look to authenticate someone’s identity before sending or sharing data, this technology could also be used for secure key communications.

The new method was explained in a paper presented at the 2016 Association for Computing Machinery’s International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing (UbiComp 2016) in Germany this month.