Lock and key: Heart scan offers improved cybersecurity

Researchers from the University of Buffalo have developed a computer security system that uses the dimensions of the user’s heart as their log-in.

Finger scans are a thing of the past according to lead author Wenyao Xu, PhD, the study's lead author, and an assistant professor in the department of computer science and engineering at UB. Set to be presented at the 23rd Annual International Conference on Mobile Computing and Communication, the heart scan aims to improve security by using the heart as a continuous log-in.

"We are living in a wifi surrounding environment every day, and the new system is as safe as those wifi devices," said Xu. "The reader is about five milliwatts, even less than 1 percent of the radiation from our smartphones."

Using low-level Doppler radar, the system measures and continually monitors a user's heart so only she can enter the computer. Like each fingerprint, each heart is different in size and shape. The system is able to scan the heart in eight seconds and monitor that heart continuously, eliminating logging out and programing the computer to remain inactive when someone else is in front of it. Researchers hope this system of log-in will improve security in computers and smartphones.