Yahoo! Labs develops biometric authentication method for touchscreens

December 14, 2015 - 

Researchers at Yahoo! Labs have developed a new biometric method of authentication for touchscreen devices.

Christian Holz and Marius Knaust outlined their new technique of coupling biometric sensors and low-data-rate transmitters in a wearable wristband to communicate to touchscreen devices through electrical conductivity in a paper presented at the the 28th Annual ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology, held last month.

In the paper, the Yahoo! Labs researchers propose a new technique entitled “biometric touch sensing“, which enables touch on mobile devices to seamlessly integrate authentication processes.

Holz and Marius note that their technique enables commodity touchscreens to biometrically identify and authenticate users by every touch, through the touchscreen itself. They claim to seamlessly integrate continuous authentication into touch interaction, which fully replaces password dialogs.

According to the paper’s abstract: “Current touch devices separate user authentication from regular interaction, for example by displaying modal login screens before device usage or prompting for in-app passwords, which interrupts the interaction flow.”

“From each touch, the touchscreen senses the 2-D input coordinates and at the same time obtains biometric features that identify the user. [The] approach makes authentication during interaction transparent to the user, yet ensures secure interaction at all times.”

“To implement this on today’s devices, [the] watch prototype senses the impedance profile of the user’s wrist and modulates a signal onto the user’s body through skin using a periodic electric signal. This signal affects the capacitive values touchscreens measure upon touch, allowing devices to identify users on each touch.”

The researchers have integrated their approach into Windows 8 and demonstrated it in the context of various use cases, including access permissions and protecting private screen contents on personal and shared devices.

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About Rawlson King

Rawlson O’Neil King is a contributing editor at BiometricUpdate.com and is an experienced communications professional, management consultant, trade journalist and author who recently published a book about control and electronic networks and who has written numerous articles in trade publications and academic journals about smart home and building technologies. Follow him @rawlsonking2.