With the popularity of smart homes, cars and other smart items increasing, cyber security is becoming an important concern.

A team from Rutgers University has developed a new system called VibWrite that grants access to smart-enabled homes, appliances or cars using finger vibrations to verify users.

“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,” Yingying Chen, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, said in a statement.

Modern smart security access systems mainly rely on the use of intercoms, cameras, cards or fingerprints to authenticate users, but these systems generally require costly equipment, complex hardware installation and diverse maintenance needs.

However, the new systems allow user to verify users when their fingers touch any solid surface. VibWrite also integrates passcode, behavioral and physiological characteristics and builds on a touch-sensing technique that uses vibration signals.

“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,” Chen said.

The new system will allow users to pick between PINs, lock patterns or gestures to gain secure access, with the authentication process able to be performed on any solid surface beyond touch screens and on any screen size.

It is resilient to side-channel attacks—when someone places a hidden vibration receiver on the surface or uses a nearby microphone to capture vibration signals— and also resists several other types of attacks, including when an attacker learns passcodes after observing a user multiple times.

The system includes an inexpensive vibration motor and receiver that can turn any solid surface into an authentication surface.

 The researchers expect VibWrite could be commercialized within a few years after conducting two trials where VibWrite verified legitimate users with more than 95 percent accuracy and a false positive rate less than 3 percent.

To improve the performance, the researchers plan on deploying multiple sensor pairs, refining the hardware and upgrading authentication algorithms. They will also conduct further tests on the system outdoors to account for varying temperatures, humidity, winds, wetness, dust, dirt and other conditions.      

According to the researchers, the market for smart security access systems is expected to reach $10 billion by 2022.

The study was published in ACM Digital Library.