Access on Main Street

Hooking up a usable world, one mainstream product at a time.

‘Word to your ‘puter

Posted by Jane Berliss-Vincent 15 January 2009

Passwords, by their nature, present a dilemma: the more secure they are, the more difficult they can be for the owner to remember. Add a plethora of different passwords for all your computer needs, and things get trickier; add a memory impairment and you near unmanageability. Atek has come up with a possible solution in the form of a small device that stores up to 200 passwords (user-specified or randomly generated) that can be automatically retrieved upon entry of a single master password. Besides passwords, the owner can store other personal information such as frequent flyer numbers or PIN codes. It’s not foolproof–you can’t reset the master password or retrieve it if you forget it–but it’s likely to improve life for many people, at a cost around $30.

TechNewsWorld: Portable Password Protector Locks Your Secrets Tight

Never let them see you sweat

Posted by Jane Berliss-Vincent 2 December 2008

Several Israeli firms are working on biometric screening systems for airport security, unobtrusively measuring factors such as heart rate and respiration. While we usually applaud biometrics that are based on universal capabilities, we’re worried about this one. How will it treat people with autism, panic disorders, or any number of legitimate conditions that may cause people to be stressed without intending to commit terrorism? For that matter, would it unfairly target people who have heart murmurs or breathing tubes?

CNN: Behavioral screening — the future of airport security?

Key largo

Posted by Jane Berliss-Vincent 20 October 2008

Swiss researchers have found four different ways of remotely detecting keystrokes issued from wired keyboards, even through walls and from distances over 65 feet away. A confidentiality issue, sure, but it could also be exploited to extend access when a user with mobility impairments needs to provide input to a computer located some distance away in a home or office situation–most wireless keyboards only cover about 30 feet. Yet another example of potential conflicts between the interests of accessibility and security.

Engadget: Keyboard eavesdropping just got way easier thanks to electromagnetic emanations

You oughta be in pictures

Posted by Jane Berliss-Vincent 31 May 2008

Picture phones are nothing new, but GE is demonstrating the first one we’ve heard of that starts picture transmission before the recipient picks up. We think this could be a great tool for people with cognitive disabilities who may find it easier to recognize faces than phone numbers when deciding whether to pick up or not.

Crave: ‘PhotoPhone’ shows you who’s calling

New biometric device saves faces

Posted by Jim Tobias 23 May 2008

Biometrics keep advancing, in support of security and user authentication applications.  There are continuing concerns about accessibility because many of these technologies use characteristics that some folks lack, such as fingers and retinas.  But pretty much everyone has a face, right?  Bioscrypt does a fast, accurate job of storing and recognizing faces, requiring just a glance from 3 to 6 feet away.

Bioscrypt unveils new VisionAccess face reader

More CAPTCHA follies

Posted by Jim Tobias 24 April 2008

We’ve posted a good bit about CAPTCHAs, the automated techniques that try to distinguish humans from vile software bots when visiting websites or registering for accounts, such as the blurry letters you have to type into a box. It’s an arms race between CAPTCHA designers and bot designers, with visually impaired users as collateral damage.

The latest design calls for users to click near the geometric center of any image in a composite set of wall-to-wall images drawn from a database. That’s only step one; step two shows you another image, which you must identify from a list of options. They’re gonna have to get really creative to figure out a non-visual approach to this task. And hey, webmaster, is your site’s porn late medieval Italian poetry really worth all this effort?

Ars Technica: Researchers stay step ahead of bots with image-based CAPTCHA

Inflated hopes

Posted by Jim Tobias 24 March 2008

Designed for motorcycle riders, this wearable air bag system will protect against falls and other high impact events.  Many more people could continue to live independently if they felt safer moving around their homes and neighborhoods.  Just be sure to de-activate it before doin’ the Bump at the Senior Surgical Sock Hop.

Wearable air bag – Boing Boing

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