What the nation's spy agency wants: a smartphone that recognizes your finger stroke – and Lockheed Martin says its "Mandrake" system is just what the National Security Agency is looking for, according to NextGov.com
Lockheed's mobile device feature verifies a user's identity based on the swiftness and shape of the individual’s finger strokes on a touch screen, a handwriting-motion recognition system with roots in the Air Force known as "dynamic signature" biometrics.
"Nobody else has the same strokes," John Mears, senior fellow for Lockheed IT and Security Solutions, tells NextGov.com. "People can forge your handwriting in two dimensions, but they couldn't forge it in three or four dimensions."
Mears explains that in addition to the two dimensions on paper, the third dimension is pressure and the fourth is time.
"The most advanced handwriting-type authentication tracks you in four dimensions," he tells NextGov.
The biometrics tracked by Lockheed's technology are speed, acceleration and the curve of an individual’s strokes, NextGov.com reports.
"We've done work with the NSA with that for secure gesture authentication as a technique for using smartphones," Mears said. "They are actually able to use it."
Lockheed officials said they don't know how or if the agency has done so, however; NextGov.com did not get an immediate comment from the NSA.
The system potentially could be used for emergency responders who often don't have the time or ability to get online for reporting purposes NextGov.com reports.
"If you are going 100 miles down the road, you are not going to enter a complex 12-character password to authenticate yourself,” he said. “We have some customers who deal with radioactive material and they can't touch things" that small with gloves on -- "How do they authenticate?"
Though the Air Force has been testing handwriting-motion ID verification since 1978, NextGov.com reports, the technology hasn't yet made the leap to the real world.
In the retail world, however, handwriting-gesture recognition is sometimes used to let sales staff to authorize sensitive transactions wherever convenient, NextGov. com reports.
Still, a market forecast released this month by research firm Tractica
found the technology wasn't feasible, financially, in any of the 194 countries analyzed.
"Research on signature dynamics... has been ongoing for nearly 50 years, but still there is no viable use case, and it was never mentioned during any of the interviews conducted for this report," the study concluded.
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