Could password woes go out the window with new Lebanese app?
“I woke up one morning and my digital world had fallen apart,” says Priscilla Sharuk. Inspired by the traumatic event, Sharuk and her partner developed Ki, a device and mobile app that is designed to integrate all one’s usernames and passwords in one place, creating the ability to sign in to various services hands free.
Her grandmother’s use of the Internet was another a-ha moment for Sharuk. She would regularly call Sharuk to help her locate the password for her Skype account. “It would be written on some piece of paper somewhere and I would spend ages trying to sort it out and I just thought, why can’t there be just one button to push that would log her in.”
Sharuk’s grandmother is of course not the only one suffering from what is commonly termed as ‘data breach fatigue’. Lets face it, it can be hard to find the time or inclination to come up with all the completely unique passwords necessary for modern life (the average internet user is said to now have an 18 logins). Along with her friend and cyber security consultant Antoine Jebara,, Sharuk got to work.
Since 2013 the two founders have been working on Ki. Pronounced ‘key’, the application promises to rescue the user from the headache of remembering those multiple passwords. First, they developed the hardware.
Largely marketed to companies in the IT sectors of the Europe, Middle East, and Africa region, the user swipes their fingerprint on a biometric sensor on the device, selects the service they wish to access on the computer using the touch screen, then connects the device either via USB or Bluetooth to the computer. Once a user is connected to the hardware, the software generates new passwords every few minutes to keep users connected to their online accounts, while potential hackers are stymied by constantly changing security information
Then came the app
This is not the first app that the two have collaborated on. In 2013 they had created ‘Tammineh’ (which translates as ‘keep me notified’), an app that would automatically send a text to those in a chosen list of people on your phone, letting them know you were alive in the aftermath of a bomb. However, beaten to the punch by the ‘I am alive’ app, they didn’t launch. They did however see it as the kick they needed to get working on Ki.
In August of this year Sharuk and Jebara began developing a mobile app of that would sync with Ki but soon realized it could be standalone. The mobile app will allow a user to login to various services on the computer whenever the phone is in physical proximity to the computer. As Sharuk says, it’s “like your phone is a password wallet, once you’re within physical range of the computer, half a meter, you’ll be able to open your email” automatically.
While specifics for the app are yet to be finalized, the user will be able to choose a certain number of services (including LinkedIn and Facebook, for instance) that can be a part of a personalized Ki app; more accounts will require an in-app purchase. For the services you choose, you load your logins and passwords, just the once, while at the same time you create a ‘master password’ that will be used in the event of losing a phone, or a finger. “There is a feature in the app where you can disable the one meter away feature,” he Jebara. “If you disable it you’ll continue to be logged in [with Bluetooth] up to 20 meters away.” He does concede that if your phone is not in range you will have to resort to remembering your password.
According to Sharuk and Jebara, while it will be a freemium app, additional Ki features will provide revenue. There will be option for a ‘password generator’ that will save time on site policies for passwords containing different combinations of characters, numbers and symbols; a one time password generator, which would allow you share a temporary password with a friend; and scheduled password changes that allows Ki to change them at regular intervals.
A fruitful market
Cyber security, both for corporate and consumer customers, is a huge market; globally it is expected to be worth $155 billion USD by 2019. “Naturally when developing the concept we talked to a lot of people in the field,” says Sharuk, “As well as friends and family.” Finding that many were increasingly targets of cyber attacks, they felt they were on the right track with their creation. And they’ve taken no short cuts: the Ki hardware uses military grade encryption software; even if lost it will prove very difficult to hack.
Check back in a couple of months to see how the app is faring on the market.