Biometric Authentication | Arguably, ever since the release of the iPhone 5s with touchID, the world of smartphone security has been greatly improved if not made more convenient. Earlier, the only way to secure your phone would’ve been to lock it with a pin code or a long password. But after the release of capacities fingerprint scanners and powerful software, it’s as easy as just placing a finger on the home button. With new software such as Google Smart Lock, proving your validity to your devices is getting easier than ever. But interestingly, only very recent models of popular laptops have started shipping with a fingerprint reader that allows the same functionality as that of them on a smartphone – basic login to access the computer. But… we’re missing on a lot of potential here. What if, instead of using it to just log into the OS, we could utilize it for everything? Think about it.
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Now, Google’s already doing it with most of its Android smartphone and even iPhones. But it’s not the way you might be thinking. If you check on your Google account for Password & Sign-in Methods then there’s an option for “Using your phone to sign-in”. Here’s the rundown of how it works –
You input your email id whenever you’re trying to log in to use a service provided by Google, say Gmail or YouTube, etc. Instead of asking you to enter your password like usual, you’ll be greeted with a random number and a prompt on the phone you’ve linked to your Google account. That’s right – even if you log in using your computer, your phone will receive a notification asking if you’re trying to sign in to some page. You’ll need to unlock your phone in order to access this (hopefully you’re using a fingerprint reader) and once you reach here, you’ll be given three numbers out of which, only one will match the one on the website. Once you choose it, you don’t need to do anything else, Google takes care of it for you. And boom, you’re logged in. It’s extremely convenient and secure for me since there’s also a timeout button where if you don’t get to answering the code in a minute or two, it doesn’t allow you to choose it and you might’ve to use your password. Other times, if it detects that your phone has been unlocked for way too long, feeling that it might’ve been compromised it asks for authenticating once again with the fingerprint scanner. Long story short – it’s a step. Towards what? A world where we don’t need to have passwords.
It might sound scary at first but imagine – you want to log into Amazon.com because you’re in a hurry of ordering something that day itself. Instead of entering that 20 letters long password using alphanumeric characters, you just put a finger on the reader of your computer and shazam – you’re in.
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Even Apple has caught up with this and have released touchID authentication on their signature Macbook Pros with the touchbar. It allows for instantly approving for Apple Pay services like making purchases on iTunes Store, App Store, and iBooks store. And all with the same level of security and accessibility. And of course, it works just fine for logging in as a user on MacOS.
Now you might be wondering why this hasn’t been done yet. Well, if it sounds amazing then it’s just as difficult to implement. The reason for that is that there’s almost no centralised configuration or for a better word, structure for fingerprint scanning in computers. Not even in the smartphone industry. Developers from the manufacturer are the only people who have the proper access to the underlying, low level APIs of the reader. The only way to access it would be to hack the internals of the PC itself and then even if you manage to swing this herculean task, you now need to crack the King of all browsers – Chrome itself because seriously, if you’re even going to go on this quest then you’re definitely already using Google’s proprietary browser.
You’ll need to figure out how to interface between the two and even after that you still need to figure out the websites you’d like this login feature to work. All that work… you know what, maybe I’ll just stick to entering the password the old way. But don’t worry. Developers are coming to the rescue. I can’t be the only one thinking about this and the rule of the internet is – if you’re thinking about it, someone’s already doing it.
Apple has a huge lead on this because of the consistency in the ecosystem that they provide with all the software published on the platform following certain guidelines. And so it won’t exactly be a huge problem for Apple to incorporate this into their power books and maybe… just maybe that can even extend this to their iMacs. Instead of providing us with the overkill of a hundred and twenty eight gigabytes of RAM, maybe just bring out a magic Keyboard with the fingerprint scanner that actually supports the OS. Please Apple? Knowing them, and since we’d totally love this feature, we’re probably never getting it. Ever. But that’s just Apple. Even then, seeing the steady rise of notebooks with fingerprint readers in them, it’s won’t be surprising if a certain standard is set up in order to unify the community to work on something like this.
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