Wearables to boost security

A security-token necklace, ear buds or eyeglasses developed at the University of Michigan could eliminate vulnerabilities in voice authentication – the practice of logging in to a device or service with your voice alone.

In this era of the internet of things, voice assistants connect people to their mobile devices, homes and vehicles. Through spoken interactions, we place calls, send text messages, check email, get travel directions, control appliances, and even access bank accounts. Barclays bank, for example, recently began using a technology that uses voice to verify the identity of call-in center customers.

Increasingly, voice is being used as a security feature but it actually has huge holes in it, said Kang Shin, the Kevin and Nancy O’Connor Professor of Computer Science and professor of electrical engineering and computer science at U-M. If a system is using only your voice signature, it can be very dangerous. We believe you have to have a second channel to authenticate the owner of the voice.

The system works by leveraging the instantaneous consistency between signals from the accelerometer in the wearable security token and the microphone in the electronic device. You can only use voice authentication with your device when you’re wearing the security token.

Vatu continuously registers speech-induced vibrations on the user’s body and pairs them with the sound of that person’s voice to create a unique and secure signature

The team has built a prototype using an off-the-shelf accelerometer, which measures motion, and a Bluetooth transmitter, which sends the vibration signal to the microphone in the user’s device. They’ve also developed matching algorithms and software for Google Now.

The users can do little to regain their security as they cannot simply change their voice. On the other hand, when losing Vatu for any reason, the user can simply unpaid it to prevent an attacker from using their device. The researchers also surveyed 952 people to gauge their willingness to wear a security token.

The work was supported by the National Science Foundation. The researchers have applied for patent protection, and they are seeking commercialization partners to help bring the technology to market.

 

 

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