A few years ago, I met Steven Bender at the Burton Group Catalyst Conference in San Francisco. Steven’s company, iMagic Software, had a product that did keyboard biometrics, and I was immediately fascinated. I thought that their product had a ton of potential that wasn’t being recognized – everyone was pigeon-holing it as strong authentication, when in fact it could be used silently to track password sharing, something that I thought had far more potential. If you aren’t familiar with that product space, the idea is that in addition to your password, data is transmitted about the rhythm in which you typed your password. Your rhythm becomes another factor that can be used to detect impostors.
If you’ve met Steven, you’ll understand when I say he was larger than life. He was persistent as hell, and he loved to tell stories. Sometimes it was challenging to get a word in edgewise :) When Steven was convinced of something, nothing in the world could stand in his way. I grew to really respect both his cheerful approach and his scrappy determination.
He called me about a month ago about a project he was working on — a very ambitious project to collect a massive amount of impostor data for his favorite password, frodolives. iMagic had created a facebook application with the hope of having a wide range of people type the same password, so that research could be done on how to better keep impostors out. The plan was to incent people to enter the password by having them enter to win an iMagic t-shirt. I told him honestly that he’d have a much better turnout if he instead donated to charity — that way people would be much more likely to enter the password multiple times, and he wouldn’t have to worry about delivering t-shirts after the fact. I’m happy to say he took my advice.
Sadly, Steven won’t get to see the results of his experiment, he passed away March 5th. I had a chance to see him just days earlier and I missed him – I’ll regret that forever. It’s hard to really comprehend that he’s gone; it still feels like some day he’ll simply call.
The iMagic facebook app can be found at http://apps.facebook.com/trustable_passwords. Consider typing ‘frodolives’ a few times into it, if you have the time.