Read my lips

Professor Cheung Yiu-ming demonstrates using the world’s first “lip motion password” technology, which can provide double security in identity authentication. Credit: HKBU

At the recent EIT Digital Partner Event in Brussels quite a number of our partners came up with ideas on security aspects, and there was considerable interest in that area. Security is a never ending story, there is no silver bullet but a continuous building of higher fences and better tools to detect intrusion. This goes hand in hand with the growth in ingenuity of hackers and there is no end in sight. Quite the contrary.

The cyberspace aggregates more and more wealth and clearly this fuel the malicious interest of "thieves" all over the world. This is probably the most challenging aspect: you have to defend you turf not just from people around you but from hackers all around the world.

The use of passwords has percolated our every day activities. There is no uniformity in password requirements and this in turns means that I need more and more passwords to satisfy the different requirements (here I need upper and lower cases, there I am asked to have a password exceeding 7 characters but for another activity the password has to have exactly 5 digits, my phone requires 4 and my bank 8....). It is a nightmare.

Yet, when I meet a friend there is never the issue of proving that I am who I am!  Wouldn't it be good to have the same capabilities on line?  
Biometric is making progress, we can activate our phone using fingerprinting and soon through retinal scan. A step forward but not like meeting a friend.

Now researchers at the Hong Kong Baptist University have worked out a way to listen to your voice as you pronounce the "Sesame, Open" (or whatever your password is, that is the one used Ali Baba and the forty thieves) and read your lips at the same time. The combination of lips reading and voice parsing provides a very strong authentication for the system but it is quite straightforward for you. No need to remember different passwords for different activities and no fear that somebody may overhear your password. His lips movement will not match yours and he won't be able to steal your identity!

The researchers have patented the approach in 2015 and now are ready to apply it in financial transactions. Wouldn't it be good to tell your phone "pay!" and have that command turn into an authentication password? The videocamera in your cell phone can watch your lips and determine if its really you... Likewise why not having an ATM machine recognising your lips as you say: "I need to withdraw 100€"?  Wouldn't life be easier? 

I am looking forward to that!

Author - Roberto Saracco

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