It’s Not Just the NSA: Your Keyboard Knows Who You Are, Too

It’s Not Just the NSA: Your Keyboard Knows Who You Are, Too: In 1891, Arthur Conan-Doyle wrote a Sherlock Holmes short story entitled “A Case of Identity”.  In it, he solves a mystery in part by determining that several different letters were all typed on the same typewriter:

“It is a curious thing,” remarked Holmes, “that a typewriter has really quite as much individuality as a man’s handwriting. Unless they are quite new no two of them write exactly alike. Some letters get more worn than others, and some wear only on one side. Now, you remark in this note of yours, Mr. Windibank, that in every case there is some little slurring over the e, and a slight defect in the tail of the r. There are fourteen other characteristics, but those are the more obvious.”

Jump forward 122 years, and we learn that users can be identified within a half a percent margin of error based simply on how they strike the keys on a keyboard. According to associate professor Morris Chang at Iowa State University:

“These pauses between words, searches for unusual characters and spellings of unfamiliar words, all have to do with our past experiences, our learning experiences,” Chang said. “And so we call them cognitive fingerprints which manifest themselves in typing rhythms.”

As with all recognition software/technology, this information could be used in several ways. Chang’s group emphasizes the usefulness for security, and has devised an application to continuously authenticate users.