Tech companies have been trying to kill the password for years. Last week, Google announced its latest scheme to get rid of those pesky alphanumeric strings with something called Project Abacus, which will let Android smartphones identify a user by the way they type, their location, facial recognition and other biometric markers.
The project is being worked on by Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects unit, and the company hopes to introduce the scheme by the end of the year. As it happens, millions of average Scandinavians have been using this technology for over a year to log in to their online bank accounts.
The tech is called behavioral biometrics, and in Sweden, Denmark and Norway, it’s integrated into a system called BankID, which major banks use to identify their customers. In Sweden, the system has 6.5 million active users. In Norway, it’s used by over 75 percent of the adult population. Banking customers use it for everyday transactions from logging in to bank accounts to filing taxes.
BankID tracks the the speed at which users type, and the angle by which they swipe their touchscreens, among other measures, to build up a profile of the user over time. If the user’s behavior is consistent, she won’t need to constantly punch in a password.
But if the user’s behavior changes by a certain threshold, the system prompts the user for a password.
“Most people don’t mind a challenge if it’s legitimate,” says Neal Costigan, whose firm BehavioSec, based in Sweden, supplies the behavioral biometrics layer of BankID. “But you…