VAuth Voice Security Wearable From University of Michigan

The University of Michigan is working on a wearable device to improve the security of our voice-activated and voice-commanded electronics.


(University of Michigan VAuth)

Talking to electronics has become a popular—even essential—way to command them. In this era of the internet of things, voice assistants connect people to their mobile devices, homes and vehicles. Through spoken interactions, we place calls, send text messages, check email, get travel directions, control appliances, and even access bank accounts. Barclays bank, for example, recently began using a technology that uses voice to verify the identity of call-in center customers.

But sound is what researchers call an "open channel" that can be easily spoofed by mediocre impersonators and sophisticated hackers alike.

"Increasingly, voice is being used as a security feature but it actually has huge holes in it," said Kang Shin, the Kevin and Nancy O'Connor Professor of Computer Science and professor of electrical engineering and computer science at U-M. "If a system is using only your voice signature, it can be very dangerous. We believe you have to have a second channel to authenticate the owner of the voice."

The solution that Shin and colleagues developed is called VAuth (pronounced vee-auth), and it's a wearable device that can take the form of a necklace, ear buds or a small attachment to eyeglasses. VAuth continuously registers speech-induced vibrations on the user's body and pairs them with the sound of that person's voice to create a unique and secure signature.

The process of speaking creates vibrations that can be detected on the skin of a person's face, throat or chest. The system works by leveraging the instantaneous consistency between signals from the accelerometer in the wearable security token and the microphone in the electronic device. You can only use voice authentication with your device when you're wearing the security token.

The team has built a prototype using an off-the-shelf accelerometer, which measures motion, and a Bluetooth transmitter, which sends the vibration signal to the microphone in the user's device. They've also developed matching algorithms and software for Google Now.

"VAuth is the first serious attempt to secure this service, ensuring that your voice assistant will only listen to your commands instead of others," Shin said. "It delivers physical security, which is difficult to compromise even by sophisticated attackers. Only with this guarantee can the voice assistant be trusted as personal and secure, especially in scenarios such as banking and home safety."


(VAuth voice authentication)

As Technovelgy readers know, science fiction authors are thinking ahead. Sometimes, they imagine more secure solutions - but sometimes they imagine ways around security measures. In this case, I was thinking of the voice-changing bowtie from Case Closed (Detective Conan). by Gosho Aoyama.


(Voice-changing tie)

Read more details at Wearables to boost security of voice-based log-in.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 11/2/2017)

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VAuth Voice Security Wearable From University of Michigan
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