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Saturday, May 02, 2015

Indian Looking To Make Gadgets Invincible

An Indian scientist and Associate Professor at the Department of Computer and Information Sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), Nitesh Saxena and his team have adapted sensors, which could revolutionize the way you use various devices. If he has his way, your gadget might become advanced enough to be able to sense your mood, protect information about your financial transactions and eliminate passwords.

Saxena also heads the SPIES Lab at the University of Alabama in Birmingham and is keen on “behavioural biometrics”, is at present collecting all data that goes into all gizmos - ranging from accelerometers, global positioning system (GPS) chips, gyroscopes and proximity sensors to study the gestures a user usually makes while using his/her smart device. These could be while they are clicking a picture or a selfie, answering a phone call or searching their contacts.
Nitesh Saxena.jpg

The reason that such in-depth data is needed because the SPIES Lab is developing a software, which will be able to memorise the moves made by the user, while performing these basic functions. Once the software familiarises itself with these basic gestures, it might be able to lock the device when strangers handle your gadget. And it might be able to unlock it automatically too, when you next pick it up.

Saxena explains, “A system that taps into user interactions with multiple connected devices such as Google Glass or the new Apple Watch, would be even more secure.”

While newer phones can measure temperature, humidity and a host of other parameters — a combination of these readings could offer a secure way to log in to your computer and make passwords obsolete. Such “Zero-interaction” authentication systems “operate much like the keyless entry and starting systems on some cars — they rely on Bluetooth or other signals from a smartphone to grant a user access.”

Saxena said, “But some available systems and an app like BlueProximity is vulnerable to relay attacks. A team of criminals (working in tandem) — one close to the user, the other near his or her computer — can relay/eavesdrop on the verification process and defeat the system.”

His team has found a way to thwart such a vulnerability by combining readings from multiple sensors, including GPS, audio, temperature and altitude. They have developed an enhanced version of BlueProximity called BlueProximity++ that uses “these readings to securely unlock laptops and other devices, as soon as the user’s phone gets within range. This is a joint work with a team of researchers at the University of Helsinki and Aalto University in Finland.”

While all these measure are to ensure that only you have access to your device and its contents, he and his team are also working on making them into an invincible fortress, so that payments can be done safely, PINS can’t be sneakily picked up by “shoulder surfers” and it also provides security from “context aware’ attacks. His ultimate goal is to make sure that gadgets don’t get hijacked and misused by people with malicious intent.

Written for the Ericsson blog

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