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Students Build Device to Log Into Computer Accounts Using Fingerprints

By Nicholas Rizzi | August 19, 2015 12:32pm
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STATEN ISLAND — You could soon be logging onto Facebook using only your fingerprints.

A device called Crypta that was developed by students at Staten Island Technical High School plugs into a computer's USB port, stores passwords and autofills them after it reads your fingerprints.

"You can use really complicated, secure, randomly generated passwords but you don’t have to remember them, you don’t even have to see them," said Dylan Kirdahy, 18, who helped invent the device.

"All you have to do is scan you fingers and it automatically types your username and passwords and logs in for you."

Kirdahy, who recently graduated from Tech and is headed to college, launched a Kickstarter campaign last week to raise $80,000 to get Crypta into production.

Aside from storing and filling in your passwords, Crypta — which is slightly larger than a key — also randomly generates complex passwords and requires you to use different ones for each of your accounts, so potential hackers can't access information easily, Kirdahy said.

Unlike online password keepers — like LastPass and 1Password — that use a master password to unlock the vault, Crypta just uses fingerprints which makes it harder to get into accounts if hacked, Kirdahy said.

"If you're logging in on your computer that has some sort of virus and you're unaware of it, with Crypta it's only that one account you login to," he said. "It's really isolated and they can't get into their other accounts."

Kirdahy started Crypta in 2013 while he was a student at Staten Island Tech. He had recently acquired $100 in Bitcoins, an online cryptocurrency, and realized if somebody got his Facebook password they'd be able to steal his virtual cash.

"I’m using the same passwords as Facebook and my email. If somebody got into my Facebook they’d be able to get into my Bitcoin wallet and take my investments," he said.  

"I didn't want to have to write [passwords] down and manually type them in."

He started to fiddle around with Arduino controllers and realized he could make them act as a virtual keyboard to log into his profile. So he built a bulky prototype that filled the password in for him and showed it to friends at school.

"At the time it was just something to me to personally figure out my account and figure out my own problems," he said.

"I figured out it was a problem for other people and then I turned this device into something."

Kirdahy joined the Staten Island's Young Entrepreneurs Academy, run by the borough's Chamber of Commerce, and turned Crypta into an actual company and got work on building a product for users.

He hired a team of three other people — all still students at Tech — and started to take preorders for the device. He decided to launch the Kickstarter campaign to help raise funds for the company and show potential investors there's demand.

"We were trying to go and look for investors, but what we realized was we really need to have some sort of backing already," he said.

"We don't really have the ability to do this yet, we’re kind of running off our own money and designing this thing with our funds."

For $135, backers of the campaign can get a Crypta themselves. Kirdahy said he hopes to be able to bring the price of the device down in the future.

The company's also working on building an adapter into the device so it's easier to plug into phones.