Attacker's Innovation

Would You Eat a Password Vitamin Daily to Log In?

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This was first featured on Mashable and brings up two very popular trends lately - high-tech sensing technology and cyber security. This post explores a very different way of thinking about password security.

Passwords: They’re everywhere, and most of us manage a half-dozen or so, at least. They’re also the weakest link in the authentication chain because humans aren’t great at creating passwords remembering them.

A Motorola executive (and former Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency head) Regina Dugan proposed a solution at the D11 conference: pills and tattoos.

“Authentication is irritating,” she said at the conference. “So irritating that only about half the people do it even though there’s a lot of information about you on your smart-phone.”

One idea Motorola presented was the “vitamin authentication” pill. One of Dugan’s colleagues showed a small tablet that contains an electronic chip. After someone swallows the pill, stomach acts as an electrolyte in the chip’s battery and powers it.

The chip has a switch that turns on and off, generating an 18-bit signal like an electrocardiogram. Ones entire body would be the authentication token, just like the fobs that many office workers carry to get on corporate networks. The authentication could be activated by touch, since the human body conducts electricity — touch your phone or laptop and you’re in.

Ingestible sensors have been FDA-approved — a company called Proteus Digital Health makes the technology for medical applications, such as recording exactly when medicine is taken.

For Motorola, the question is whether the pill or a similar innovation — an electronic tattoo, which Dugan wore during the conference — can be adapted to other applications. (There isn’t currently any collaboration between Motorola and Proteus).

Of course, swallowing your authentication token every day would also mean passing it out of the digestive system (Proteus’ electronic pills leave your system in the normal course of digestion). It also isn’t clear that users will want to take pills every day — some people take vitamins, but most don’t.

Either way, it’s an attempt to think about a process that needs fixing – and at a minimum an attempt by Motorola to think big.


Whether eating your passwords or simply trying to remember them is the next trend, password security is very important. Wombat helps organizations teach end users to build stronger passwords with our Password Security training module.


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