You’ve unlocked your phone before with a passcode, your fingerprint, maybe even your face. Are you ready to do it with your sweat?
Jan Halamek, a chemist at the State University of New York at Albany, makes the case for securing phones and other devices with our sweat in a recent article in ChemPhysChem.
The idea isn’t brand new; people have been talking about it for at least a decade. But Halamek’s research group has taken a hard look at how our devices could analyze the chemicals in sweat to protect our security.
Every method meant to ensure you’re the only person who can access your phone has its problems. A passcode can be stolen or guessed, plus it can be annoying to type it in every time. Fingerprint readers can be finicky, and researchers have shown they can be spoofed from the prints you leave on everything you touch.
“Me? I hate passwords and PINs. I have this fingerprint one and it doesn’t work half of the time,” says Halamek.
We’ll see how well Apple’s new FaceID technology works. At least one hacker says he’s beaten it with a mask, although there’s reason to doubt his claims. Systems based on other unique characteristics—like your voice or your eyes—haven’t been proven practical yet.
That’s why Halamek went for a different unique biological identifier: the chemicals in your blood, sweat and other bodily fluids. The things we eat, where we live, the genetics that determine our metabolism and other biochemical processes—those all add up to a collection of chemicals that’s all our own.