UAB researching technological alternative to online passwords - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

UAB researching technological alternative to online passwords

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BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -

Passwords are used for protection but they're not always reliable for a variety of reasons. Researchers at the University of Alabama Birmingham are looking for alternative methods.

"There's a significant effort to eliminate passwords but it's not going o happen overnight," explained UAB researcher Nitesh Saxena.

He says one new technology gaining momentum is zero-interaction authentication. He says another device, such as a smartphone, acts as a key to unlock your computer.

"There is no password. You just have to be close to the device. So if you're in close proximity it will unlock. If you step away from the terminal, it will lock," added Saxena.

It's an idea Birmingham business Tony Nzeribe would be interested in. He says can't run his business without his laptops.

"I have several laptops and it takes a whole lot to keep up with 20 passwords," explained Nzeribe.

He says a different security method could help.

But there are possible risks, like if your phone falls into the wrong hands. Hackers can carry out a relay attack. According to Saxena, it's where attackers are able to mimic your phone's signal in order to get gain access into your device.

"So what we've done is develop a system that will enhance security," Saxena said.

It's an added layer of security to protect against a relay attack. Saxena believes they've developed a useful security tool, but says it will be a while before it goes main stream.

"I think it's going to take some effort and these alternate approaches can serve as alternates uses to passwords," he said.

The UAB research team is still working on perfecting a prototype of the system. Saxena says eventually this sort of technology may be used for websites too.

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