Visualizing your key for secure phone calls and language independence

Michael Oehler, Dhananjay Phatak, John Krautheim

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

1 Scopus citations


We present a method to visualize and authenticate a cryptographically negotiated key for a secure phone call. That is, each caller is presented with a graphical representation of the key and through verbal interaction (i.e., side-channel authentication) they describe what they see. If they agree, the key is authenticated and the secure media session continues. The strength of the approach lies in the vocal recognition of the callers, and their ability to confirm the image displayed by their system. The necessary degree of visual recognition is achieved by using basic shapes, color and count. People, regardless of language or age, can easily identifying these images. Our experience shows that they can communicate what they see with little effort and terminate the call when they differ. We believe that this approach reverses the current trend in security to divest users from the underlying cryptographic principles supporting secure systems by abstracting these principles to a comprehensible and visual form. This paper demonstrates that visualization and the human factor can play a pivotal role in establishing a secure communication channel. This short paper discusses how a key is visualized and provides some initial user feedback. We have named this approach the Short Authentication SymbolS VisuallY (SASSY.)

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationVizSec 2010 - Proceedings of the 7th International Symposium on Visualization for Cyber Security
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Number of pages6
ISBN (Print)9781450300131
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes
Event7th International Symposium on Visualization for Cyber Security, VizSec 2010 - Ottawa, ON, Canada
Duration: Sep 14 2010Sep 14 2010

Publication series

NameACM International Conference Proceeding Series


Other7th International Symposium on Visualization for Cyber Security, VizSec 2010
CityOttawa, ON


  • authenticated key agreement
  • human-assisted authentication
  • side channel authentication
  • visual authentication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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