According to Frank Stajano, reader in security at Cambridge University’s computer laboratory, each of us needs an electronic aura, a field that would extend no more than two or three feet from our bodies and which could be generated in a similar way to a Wi-Fi signal, only over a very short distance. Crucially, signals generated within the aura would uniquely identify its owner and permit only his or her electronic devices to work when they are close to that person.
Outside your electronic aura, your electric car keys would not be able to function, for example. You could drop them in a supermarket but they would be of no use to a thief, because the keys could only operate in the presence of your aura.
Even more ambitiously, Stajano is designing a handheld device that can remember thousands of log-in names and passwords.
This device – which he calls a pico, after the Italian philosopher Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, who was famed for his prodigious memory – would interact automatically with websites for banks, theatres, cinemas, rail companies and others. You would simply hold the device over your screen to access one of your accounts.
The device would, again, be perfectly secure because it could only function inside an individual’s electronic aura. If one was dropped or lost, it would provide no security threat and would be simply replaced by a backup.