LatentGesture learns your unique touch signature, keeps everyone else out

April 9, 2014
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latentgesture-android-security-unique-touch-signature Georgia Institute of Technology

Forget passwords, PINs, security patterns, or even Face Unlock. A research team at the Georgia Institute of Technology has devised a way to let your Android device recognize you as its owner just by the way that you touch it.

Known as LatentGesture, the said system relies on your “touch signature,” which refers to your unique ways of touching and interacting with your device. When someone uses a phone, LatentGesture determines the user’s touch signature and checks whether it matches the owner’s. The system can be programmed to unlock the device if the signatures match or to keep the device locked and unusable if the signatures don’t match.

Touch habits like fingerprints

Georgia Tech College of Computing assistant professor Polo Chau likens one’s touch signature to a fingerprint. “Everyone is unique when [he/she uses] a touchscreen. Some people slide the bar with one quick swipe. Others gradually move it across the screen. Everyone taps the screen with different pressures while checking boxes,” said Professor Chau, who is also the research team’s leader.

The study done by Chau’s team used LatentGesture on Android devices. Twenty participants were asked to interact with a phone and a tablet by performing tasks listed in an electronic form. While the participants were tapping buttons, ticking check boxes, and scrolling slider bars, LatentGesture was “learning” their touch tendencies and creating a profile for each participant.

Accurate recognition

To test the system, one profile was assigned as the device owner’s. Then, the participants performed the tasks all over. LatentGesture was able to determine who was the “real” owner and marked the others as unauthorized users. The results registered a high degree of accuracy — about 98 percent on a smartphone and 97 percent on tablets.

In another test, one “owner” profile and four “authorized user” profiles were programmed into LatentGesture running on a tablet. The system was able to identify each user with 98 percent accuracy.

Multiple potential uses

Because it passively secures your Android device, LatentGesture can make smartphone or tablet use more convenient. You won’t need to worry anymore about other people seeing you type your PIN/password or figuring out the security pattern on your devices. Your touch will be enough to tell your device that it is you who are holding it and not someone else.

But not only that — LatentGesture carries a lot of other potential uses, too. For example, it can be used to distinguish between device owner and authorized users, and restrict the allowed activities of authorized non-owners while keeping unauthorized users out.

What other possible uses and advantages do you think can a technology like LatentGesture offer to Android users? If this were to become one of the standard security features on every Android device, would you prefer it to the other existing ones? Let us know what you think.

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