Published On: Wed, Feb 8th, 2017

New Israeli Method Can Catch Smartphone Thieves In 14 Seconds

Researchers at Ben Gurion University of the Negev have developed a security model based on how users touch their Smartphone's screen.


Israeli researchers have developed a technique that identifies a smartphone thief or intruder in under 14 seconds.

“While most people are confident that password protecting a phone is sufficient, they tend to choose familiar passwords that are easy to guess,” says Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) researcher Liron Ben Kimon. “With our approach, even if someone has the password, they can’t replicate a smartphone user’s unique behavior.”

Liron Ben Kimon recently completed her M.Sc. in data mining and business intelligence. She is now a data scientist at PayPal in Beer-Sheva’s Advanced Technologies Park adjacent to the University.

An average person uses smartphone 4.7 of the 15 hours they are awake. We store a tremendous amount of personal information on our devices that we do not want revealed to others. However, studies have proven that passwords for smartphones can be fairly easily broken since most people choose familiar passwords that are easy to guess.

Ben Kimon verification model extracts information from a phone’s sensors to identify frequency, pressure and speed of touch combined with the application being used. The program also computes 30 seconds of recent history, such as which screens a user touched, which buttons were pressed and how much electricity was used.

The researchers culled information from 20 users over a two-week period to develop their model. The findings showed that on average, a user touches the screen 35 times in 13.8 seconds.

“A thief will almost certainly touch the screen more than 35 times to steal information because he is not familiar with an owner’s phone settings and apps,” Ben Kimon says. “The phone can learn the typical touch and sequence pattern, and lock out an unauthorized user to prevent data theft, or someone you don’t want peeking at your messages.”

Three million phones were stolen in the United States, and another three million were lost in 2013, according to Consumer Reports. 68% testified that they subsequently had not succeeded in restoring all of the information that was stolen.



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