NSA testing gesture recognition as password replacement

Technology developed by Lockheed Martin recognizes everything from swipes to formal writing to authenticate an end-user

The National Security Agency is testing gesture software that recognizes a user's writing style for use as a possible replacement for passwords.

The technology is not new to biometrics, but the NSA is taking a look at technology developed by Lockheed Martin called Mandrake Secure Gesture. Mandrake is computer software that features

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gesture recognition technology for use in user authentication and the encryption and decryption of digital files, including audio, video, text, binary, still images, graphics and multimedia files. The technology examines not only the writing style, but pressure, rhythm and time to execute.

The NSA is focusing on swipe technology for use on mobile devices. The idea is a user in an emergency or sensitive situation could more easily use a gesture to authenticate than typing in a password.

Lockheed Martin officials told Nextgov.com that they do not know if the NSA has deployed anything to date, but the software measures speed, acceleration and the curve of an individual's strokes. Input could vary from a writing sample down to a scribble.

In Feb 2013, Lockheed and mobile risk management provider Fixmo collaborated on a similar secure authentication technology for consumer mobile devices.

The collaboration combined Lockheed's Mandrake SG with Fixmo's SafeZone, a defense-grade secure workspace for iOS and Android devices. The workspace keeps activities under IT control and ensures all mail, browsing, documents and applications are encrypted and contained.

Lockheed's Mandrake SG provides the software so smartphone and tablet users can authenticate into the Fixmo software with a gesture.

Gartner predicts that by next year, 30 percent of organizations will use biometric authentication on mobile devices. That number compares to just 5 percent in 2014.

Lockheed trademarked the Mandrake name in 2014, and the technology was listed as relevant to computer and software products, electrical and scientific products, computer and software services and scientific services.