WVU students develop ‘selfie’ security app

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Three West Virginia University students have developed an app to keep your phone secure simply by taking a selfie.

“SecureSelfies” uses biometrics technology and facial recognition to protect sensitive material on smart phones, such as photos and applications.

Alex Dunn, Walter Ferrell and Steven Amerman worked together to complete this app in a week’s time.

“We use our algorithms to authenticate your facial data, among other factors, to unlock the sensitive parts of your device that you’d normally want to keep away from prying eyes,” Ferrell said. “Our implementation of biometrics makes sure that you—alive and presence required—and only you can access the data that’s locked. Passwords and lock codes can be cracked, a system that judges your facial data is a much trickier thing to deceive.”

Dunn, Ferrell and Amerman were given the assignment by Thirimachos Bourlai, assistant professor in WVU’s Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. The three also work in Bourlai’s Multispectral Imaging Lab.

“Bourlai always teased us with ‘big things’ happening very soon – we didn’t realize how big he really meant,” Ferrell said.

Ferrell, a junior computer science and religious studies student, said the hardest part of designing the app was learning all the programming languages required. WVU computer science students typically become fluent in two to four programming languages before graduation. Ferrell learned 11 while helping to build the app.

“Although we’re taught in class that we’ll be using many languages across our careers, learning 11 in such a short time span was a tall order,” he said.

Alex Dunn, a senior computer science student, said the week deadline is typical for a computer science student, but presenting to a panel of investors instead of a professor resulted in added pressure…

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