The Knock app developed for the Apple iPhone means you can get into your desktop or laptop computer without typing in any password, just by rapping on the smartphone with your knuckles.
The more electronic devices we possess, the greater the number of passwords we require. The more data we use, the more passwords we need to protect it. And the more information security we have…yes, again, more passwords have to be thought up. This surge in passwords, and the difficulty most of us have in remembering all of them, can prove not only frustrating but counter-productive. If a password is to be really effective it must be hard to guess, and will therefore be all the more difficult for us to memorise. So while we probably can expect passwords to disappear in the quite near future in favour of more secure and useful tools using biometric data and connected objects, these are still a long way off hitting the mass market. However, password frustration is not incurable, as the Knock application recently launched on Apple‘s AppStore demonstrates. The app transforms your smartphone into a sort of interactive password, enabling you to unlock your computer if it’s within Bluetooth range.
AZERTY and 12345?
For those who have difficulty coming up with secure passwords, there is always Masterkey, an app which generates strong, hard-to-crack passwords on the iPhone. You can change your password at the push of a button and reconfigure the generator to suit you – choosing the length of the password you require or the number of letters and numbers in the sequence. This will certainly be a help for those who find it hard to do better than a simple sequential string of letters or figures. Knock however takes a more intuitive approach. Although it is based on the simplest of concepts – knocking to request admittance – it is in fact not another of the hoax apps that have been appearing recently. The developers set out from the idea that your smartphone is probably nowadays the object that you most always carry around with you, especially in your working environment, so it can be used as a sort of entry key. Using Bluetooth low energy connectivity, together with the accelerometer which can now be found in most smartphones, Knock allows you to connect two devices – currently you can only pair an iPhone and a Mac – so that once the app is launched and running in the background you will be able to unlock your Mac by knocking on the phone as you would on a door. If this sounds like a gimmicky gadget, Knock co-founder and former Apple employee William Henderson insists that he set out to develop a tool that makes data security more instinctive than using passwords, which so many people – including Henderson himself – hate to use. He argues that “If you create an unusable system, people will just go round it. At the moment securing your device is so annoying that most people don’t protect their data properly.”
Wanted: an approach more in line with our basic habits
However if we’re talking about ‘security’, then some people might have reservations about Knock. While the concept is innovative, it relies on using your smartphone as the centralised secure terminal, which raises the stakes if you happen to lose it. All the same, the Portland-based startup is trying to tackle a very real problem – the rigidity of the whole password system – which is preventing a lot of people from taking adequate data security precautions. By working with an intuitive action and making it fun, Knock follows the principle that approaches to security must not be too dry and theoretical but need to be rooted in the user’s instinctive daily habits.