Computer security from a new angle: your typing style is your fingerprint

Friday, October 03, 2003
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger
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This is fascinating security news, sounding almost like science fiction at first. Then again, it also makes a whole lot of sense: identifying users by the way they type.

Consider: each person's typing style is unique in overall speed, speed between letter pairs, use of the backspace key, and so on. Profile these typing characteristics for ten people and you, too, can tell who's on the keyboard just by looking at these statistics.

This falls under the category of what I call "behavioral metrics" for identification of end users. A similar effort is underway by law enforcement authorities to identify people by the way they walk (no kidding: it's called "gait analysis" and it's based on the idea that people have unique walks).

Naturally, there are also the usual biometric methods for identification: voiceprint, fingerprint, retinal scans and so on. And there's the lowly password, which turns out to be extremely insecure in real world use due to the fact that most people use passwords that are simultaneously easy to remember and easy to guess.

But typing behavior analysis offers something much better: an innate password, of sorts, that requires no memorization and is virtually impossible to forge. Consider: could you sit down at a keyboard and type like another person? Exactly like another person? I doubt it. Unless your motor skills match theirs almost perfectly, there are going to be rather obvious differences between your typing patterns and theirs. Furthermore, it seems virtually impossible to learn how another person types simply by watching them type, so unlike passwords which are rendered useless as soon as somebody watches you type one in, typing pattern analysis remains secure even when conducted in full view! One more thing: it can be done in software only, so the costs of this technology are by definition dramatically lower than anything requiring hardware (fingerprint scanning, retinal scanning, or other biometric security systems). This results in typing behavior security having unique advantages that simply aren't present in other approaches to computer security and user identification. The only drawback (and yes, there is one) is that identification is nowhere near instant. It takes time (up to 60 seconds, perhaps) for the software to gather enough typing data to make a decision on user authentication. And, of course, there's the problem of typing when you've just come in from a Winter blizzard. Frozen hands don't work as well as warm, fluid ones. Will this software lock you out of your own computer until you warm up with a mug of hot chocolate? Might make a nice excuse at work, but this would hardly win customers at the corporate level. We'll have to watch this one and see how it turns out in the real world.

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About the author: Mike Adams is a consumer health advocate and award-winning journalist with a passion for sharing empowering information to help improve personal and planetary health He has authored more than 1,800 articles and dozens of reports, guides and interviews on natural health topics, and he has created several downloadable courses on survival and preparedness, including his widely-downloaded course on personal safety and self-defense. Adams is a trusted, independent journalist who receives no money or promotional fees whatsoever to write about other companies' products. In 2010, Adams created, a natural living video sharing site featuring thousands of user videos on foods, fitness, green living and more. He also launched an online retailer of environmentally-friendly products ( and uses a portion of its profits to help fund non-profit endeavors. He's also a veteran of the software technology industry, having founded a personalized mass email software product used to deliver email newsletters to subscribers. Adams volunteers his time to serve as the executive director of the Consumer Wellness Center, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, and pursues hobbies such as martial arts, Capoeira, nature macrophotography and organic gardening. He's also author of numerous health books published by Truth Publishing and is the creator of several consumer-oriented grassroots campaigns, including the Spam. Don't Buy It! campaign, and the free downloadable Honest Food Guide. He also created the free reference sites and Adams believes in free speech, free access to nutritional supplements and the ending of corporate control over medicines, genes and seeds. Known as the 'Health Ranger,' Adams' personal health statistics and mission statements are located at

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