Luxembourg company to revolutionise internet security

Will passwords become a thing of the past?

photo: shutterstock

(VM) If you're one of those people who's forever forgetting passwords, you're in luck.

Oxford Bio-Chronometrics (OxBio), a tech start-up based in Luxembourg, plans to overhaul the whole online authentication system - by getting rid of passwords altogether.

“Most online security requires the user to identify themselves with a password or a pin.  The system we've developed, however, is 'always on' - people are identified without having to authenticate themselves, the internet will just 'know' that it's you”, said OxBio president David Scheckel, speaking to wort.lu/en.

The system works by a process known as 'Biochronometrics': over 400 different data points of information, such as your location, typing speed and how you move the mouse, are emitted every time you interact with a device connected to the internet.

OxBio's software captures and applies algorithms to this information several times a second creating a 'Biochronometric signature'. This 'signature' is unique to the individual user and can be used as a form of identification.

Scheckel said that, so far, these 'signatures' have been created for only a handful of people, including himself. Now, he could use any connected device in the world running the OxBio code and the software would recognise him – it can even tell if he is wearing glasses: he holds his phone differently depending on whether he has them on or not.

No More Captchas

Although the potential for this kind of technology is huge, OxBio are cautious not to overreach. Their first product, which they launched in March this year, is a software tool for verifying whether an internet user is human or not, and is intended to build trust in the company and gradually accustom people to the idea of a passive verification system.

Unlike current verification methods, such as Captcha and Solve Media, which require user input, the product, called NoMoreCaptchas, distinguishes between bots and humans without the user having to input any information at all – it can just tell from their 'Biochronometric signature'.

According to Scheckel, this will benefit companies, who see up to 70 percent of their potential customers leave when forced to fill out Captchas, as well as the visually impaired, who find the code difficult, or even impossible, to read.

While the company will be focusing on anti-spam and anti-fraud products to begin with, eventually OxBio plans to roll out software which will replace passwords for a host of different online platforms, including e-commerce sites, online banking and email.

The learning period for the software to identify a particular user is approximately two weeks, during which time a traditional test will also be in place. Once the 'signature' has been learned, however, access to sites will no longer require passwords.

Privacy issues

A more controversial aspect of Biochronometrics is the role it could play in intelligence gathering and surveillance - OxBio software has the potential to track online users from one device to another, thus raising the concern that it could be used to invade people's privacy.

In response to this concern, OxBio said that it took matters of privacy very seriously, emphasizing that it had not been in contact with any law enforcement or intelligence bodies. Company President Scheckel said: “The privacy issues have been thoroughly addressed: we wont hold data that ties a signature to a person in a way that invades privacy- we would know a number, tie the signature to that, and our clients would hold the other side of the equation, thus protecting the privacy of internet users.”

He added, however, that increasing connectivity would inevitably lead to a decrease in privacy, pointing to the popularity of applications such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Candycrush as evidence that people seem happy to forgo privacy for the sake of a free game or app.

Luxembourg: the next Silicon Valley?

OxBio began its life at the University of Oxford when founder and CEO Adrian Neal and a team of researchers decided to develop and commercialise their post-graduate research, but this year the company moved its headquarters to Luxembourg after being awarded a free, 12-month services package by Europe4StartUps - one of the country's leading business incubators.

At the opening of the new office, Neal said that Luxembourg had been chosen because it “boasts one of the most modern data centre parks in the world with low latency connections to all of the major European Internet hubs,” as well as its strict intellectual property laws and low tax.

OxBio has received support by various Luxembourg business organisations, as well as the government, and company president Scheckel believes that OxBio’s experience here could inspire other tech start-ups to move to the Grand-Duchy.

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