Rutgers engineers develop finger vibration-based access system

Engineers at Rutgers University have developed VibWrite, a smart access system that senses finger vibrations to verify users, according to a report by TechExplore.

The low-cost vibration-based authentication system could eventually be used to secure access to homes, apartment buildings, cars, and appliances.

“Everyone’s finger bone structure is unique, and their fingers apply different pressures on surfaces, so sensors that detect subtle physiological and behavioral differences can identify and authenticate a person,” said Yingying (Jennifer) Chen, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

Chen is the senior author of a peer-reviewed paper on VibWrite that was recently published online at the ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security.

The paper’s co-authors include Jian Liu and Chen Wang, doctoral students who work with Chen, and a researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

VibWrite integrates passcode, behavioral and physiological characteristic, allowing user verification when fingers touch a solid surface, according to the paper.

The system expands on a touch-sensing technique by using vibration signals. It also differs from more traditional, password-based approaches, which validate passwords instead of legitimate users.

And unlike behavioral biometrics-based solutions, which typically involve touch screens, fingerprint readers or other costly hardware and lead to privacy concerns and “smudge attacks” that trace oily residues on surfaces from fingers.

“Smart access systems that use fingerprinting and iris recognition are very secure, but they’re probably more than 10 times as expensive as our VibWrite system, especially when you want to widely deploy them,” said Chen, who works in the School of Engineering and is a member of the Wireless Information Network Laboratory (WINLAB) at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

The paper also states that VibWrite allows users to select from PINs, lock patterns or gestures to gain secure access.

The authentication process can be done on any solid surface, with the exception of touch screens, as well as on any screen size.

The system is resilient to side-channel attacks and other types of attacks, including when an hacker learns passcodes after observing a user multiple times.

VibWrite is low-cost and uses minimal power, contains an inexpensive vibration motor and receiver, and can turn any solid surface into an authentication surface.

Due to the system’s easy hardware installation and maintenance, “VibWrite probably could be commercialized in a couple of years,” Chen said.

During two tests, VibWrite verified legitimate users with more than 95 percent accuracy and a false positive rate of less than 3 percent.

However, the team admits that the current VibWrite system needs improvements because users may require a few attempts to pass the system.

To improve performance, the team will deploy multiple sensor pairs, refine the hardware and upgrade authentication algorithms, as well as further test the system outdoors to account for varying temperatures, humidity, winds, wetness, dust, dirt and other conditions.

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