Hollywood likes to portray black hat hackers as crafty geniuses who are able to crack into mainframes by using backdoor exploits and programming wizardry. But the reality isn’t quite as exciting, because the biggest weakness in cybersecurity is people. Despite being told how important it is to change our passwords frequently, use two-factor authentication, and lock our computers, most of us neglect to do so. Black hat hackers just take advantage of that fact to gain access to data. But a simple device made from an Adafruit Circuit Playground may be able to nudge people into action.
This device is being developed by researchers from Goldsmiths, University of London and the University of Bath. It was inspired by the kinds of devices many people already use to form better habits. Your Fitbit, for example, will vibrate if you’ve been sitting too long in order to remind you to walk around a bit. The researchers wanted to see if the same concept could be used to push people into practicing better cybersecurity habits. Because most data breaches are the result of human error and poor security practices, this could ultimately save companies and individuals a significant amount of money.
The prototype devices being constructed by the researchers are made using Adafruit Circuit Playground Express boards, which are microcontroller development boards that come with a suite of built-in sensors, LEDs, buttons, and more. The researchers plan to program the Circuit Playground Express boards to detect when a person needs to take security actions. For instance, if a person stands up from their desk, the device could light up or gently vibrate in order to remind them to lock their computer. We don’t know how well that will actually work, but the researchers plan to find out later this year in real world studies.