ID authentication scheme uses music as the key

Close Encounters
In “Close Encounters of Third Kind,” Francois Truffaut plays a UFO researcher who uses music as an authentication tool for the aliens. (Columbia / EMI via YouTube)

Amazon’s inventors have come up with a computer-based system that makes use musical transformations to authenticate a whole group of users — and block access if anyone strikes a false note.

The concept, which is called chained authentication using musical transforms, is the subject of a patent that was sought back in 2014 and published today.

Here’s how it could work: When a pre-specified group requests access to protected data, the computer service holding that data sends out a “musical seed” to the first user on the group’s list. This seed can be an actual melody, or it can be a series of seemingly garbled tones.

The first user runs the tones through a transformation — for example, changing notes from sharps to flats, or bringing the melody down a fifth. Different users apply their own assigned algorithms to twist and turn the melody, and the last user on the list sends the audio file back to the service for authentication.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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