Passfaces wins another client, this time in the customer call center market

Published 26 September 2006

Technology, described as reverse biometrics, relies on the human’s brain’s ability to recognize familiar faces; users identify a series of portraits among a sea of decoys; passwords cannot be written down or given to another

A company interested in protecting its customers’ assets and personal information (and we assume all but the unscrupulous are) may purchase any number of IT security systems that lock such critical data behind passwords, firewalls, and Chinese screens. Indeed, we report on this business on almost a daily basis. Yet the most basic vulnerability remains for those companies that rely on human interaction to make sales: an employee, perhaps at a customer call center or mail order company, can jot down credit card and other information at the same time he is inputting the information into the secured system. Even worse, an employee might even gain access to other customers’ records and sell it wholesale to local, or even international, thievery rings. ContactWorks, a customer contact management firm, believes it has found a workable solution with Annapolis, Maryland-based Passfaces’s cognometric authentication technology.

How it works

Passfaces’s technology may be best described as reverse biometrics. Instead of using a computer to judge whether a particular employee is who he claims he his, the system relies on the human brain’s own natural ability to recall the faces of others. Infants, for instance, are able to recognize their mother after only two days, and the adult mind can distinguish familiar faces within only twenty thousandths of a second. Even after thirty-five years, humans can recognize childhood schoolmates with 90 percent accuracy. A key point to keep in mind: identifying human faces relies on recognition, not recall.

An employee using Passfaces technology is provided a password of three to seven new faces. Enrollment takes less than five minutes and is followed by a series of tests to acquaint the user both with the system and with the faces he will need to recognize (to pass he must get through at least four iterations of practice without picking a decoy). When accessing the system, he is presented with a 3 x 3 grid of randomly ordered faces and simply points his cursor in order to the faces in his password.

Passface technology contains a number of advantages that distinguish it from regular alphanumeric passwords. It cannot be written down, it cannot be given to another person, and it does not rely on the human brain’s falliable memory. According to the company, the odds of a person correctly guessing the password is one chance in 59,049, much better than the one chance in 10,000 of someone guessing a four digit ATM PIN number.

-read more at the Passface Web site