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Cellphones Crime Security

Smart Phones Could Know Their Users By How They Walk 96

Posted by timothy
from the just-for-the-ministry-of-silly-walks dept.
mirgens writes "Technology Review has a short article on new work on gait analysis with the accelerometers built into many smart phones. The work was done at the Norwegian Information Security Laboratory ('Nislab'). The need for more security on mobile devices is increasing with new functionalities and features made available. To improve device security, Nislab proposed gait recognition as a protection mechanism — in other words, if somebody else walks away with your phone, it locks up. While previous work on gait recognition used video sources, for instance to identify people in airports or secure buildings, the Nislab researchers collected the gait data using a Google G1 phone containing the AK8976A embedded accelerometer." What if you're running from a mugger and want to dial 911?
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Smart Phones Could Know Their Users By How They Walk

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  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Saturday October 09, 2010 @07:28AM (#33844360)

    What if you're running from a mugger and want to dial 911?

    Then don't lock out emergency functions - similar to the way that (in the US at least) phones without a valid subscription can still call 911.

    • The phone would call for you. That is why it is called a SMART phone.

      • OnSmart App (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Speaking of 911 and accelerometers...

        I've long wondered if you could write a smart phone app that monitors the accelerometer for a roll over collision and calls 911 like OnStar. You could have it enabled only when the phone is in a car dock or something. Perhaps for sudden jolts like a rear-end collision it could say "I'm going to call 911 in one minute unless you tell me you're alright."

        • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

          by MachDelta (704883)

          You mean, like OnStar?

          Like this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8As1zshWxn0 [youtube.com] :D

          • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

            by Anonymous Coward

            You mean, like OnStar?

            Yeah, that's why I fucking said, "like OnStar" in the first place.

            • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

              by MachDelta (704883)

              Chill the fuck out. I read your entire comment.
              My point was, why should your phone do something that your car should do (or already does do)?

              • by zim2411 (700459)
                Cause most people don't have OnStar. I don't know anybody with it.
                • and some A nearby call centre around here has (or at least had) the Canadian contract for OnStar and I've heard some hard to credit but plausible anecdotes about the amount of information the system has on you and how little there is in the way of abuse prevention. Based on these, I would never knowingly buy a vehicle that even had the system installed, let alone activated and subscription paid for. (Apparently; among other problems, the system as set up makes it difficult to transfer ownership to a used ca
              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by Pharmboy (216950)

                My point was, why should your phone do something that your car should do (or already does do)?

                You do know that OnStar is only available as OEM equipment on GM (Government Motors) vehicles, right? Oh and Saab, like anyone buys those.

      • This story is old/a dupe. This was announced quite a while back. I can't find a lot of the old info thanks to this recent story but here's one from last year and I'm sure there are some from a couple years ago..

        http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1655066&dl=GUIDE&coll=GUIDE&CFID=108009773&CFTOKEN=58257172 [acm.org]

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by PaulOShea (79691)

      If you're trying to dial the cops while running from a mugger I predict an encounter with a sturdy lamppost, street sign or news stand in your very near future.

    • by Pharmboy (216950) on Saturday October 09, 2010 @08:01AM (#33844446) Journal

      >> What if you're running from a mugger and want to dial 911?

      > Then don't lock out emergency functions - similar to the way that
      > (in the US at least) phones without a valid subscription can still call 911.

      The editing on /. gets worse each day. What is more interesting of a question would have been "are walks as unique as fingerprints, and can this be used to violate privacy" How is this quantified, and could the police put you on a suspect list because your "walk" is similar to who they think committed some crime? Those are interesting questions. As for 911, as the parent points out, that would be obvious to anyone with any life experience.

    • even a unactivated iphone call dial 911 with no sim card

    • Do you actually believe that calling 911 would do anything to help you? Why are you running? Turn around and shoot the muggers, that way they won't mug anyone else.
    • by nospam007 (722110) *

      If you want to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk.

    • From what I've experienced, phones in Europe can call emergency numbers, usually 112 in most of the EU, even without a SIM card. Depending on the country, a SIM-less phone can also call other emergency numbers; in Italy that would be 118 (ambulance), 115 (fire department) and 113 (state police).
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emergency_telephone_number#Europe [wikipedia.org]
  • by pedantic bore (740196) on Saturday October 09, 2010 @07:32AM (#33844368)

    I'm worried that this sort of thing would lead to phones that won't allow me to answer when they detect that I might be driving.

    • by realityimpaired (1668397) on Saturday October 09, 2010 @08:24AM (#33844502)

      I'm more worried about the fact that my gait changes based on whether I'm wearing shoes with a lift or not, and how high that lift is. Admittedly not as much of a problem for the male folk in the room, but in my closet there's flats, as well as shoes with heels varying from 1-4", and I very rarely wear the same height of shoe two days in a row.

      I don't like the idea of my phone locking me out if it thinks I'm driving. In theory that would be temporary, until you stop moving. But I *really* don't like the idea of my phone locking me out because I'm wearing a different pair of shoes than I did yesterday.

      • These are two different things: one is a feature that (presumably) you, as the owner, could enable or disable, as you feel is most appropriate. The second is a limitation that the government legislators might impose on your use of your phone, whether you like it or not.

      • That was my first thought as well, since my particular SWMBO walks very differently depending on which pair of footwear she's wearing. My second thought is not so gender limited. I have osteo-arthritis and fibromyalgia and I walk incredibly differently depending on whether or not I am having a flareup. In fact, my gait changes slowly but noticably through out the day as I tire. So much so that some of my more observant friends have been able to make pretty close guesses about how long I've been on my feet,
      • by Gazzonyx (982402)

        [...]Admittedly not as much of a problem for the male folk in the room[...]

        You must be new here.

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      This would be done by GPS more effectively. If you are on a road, and moving faster then say a brisk bike ride, then it locks the phone.

      If you are a passenger, you are just outta luck.

      • If you are a passenger, you are just outta luck.

        In that case, such legislation would never get out of committee because it would impose an undue burden on people who carpool or ride public transport. All seats in a car or especially a bus (except one) are reasonably safe for making phone calls.

      • by tepples (727027)
        The article you linked appears to make no reference to passenger, bus, or carpool. How would a phone tell the difference between a driver and a passenger?
  • by valderost (668593) on Saturday October 09, 2010 @07:32AM (#33844370) Journal
    Phone locks up when you're stumbling drunk - for some people that's a good thing!
  • by TheLink (130905) on Saturday October 09, 2010 @07:41AM (#33844390) Journal
    How's it going to work for ladies who carry phones in handbags etc (many don't use the same bag all the time).

    Those ladies actually have a high chance of getting their phones stolen - the thieves steal the bag with the phone inside etc. Many ladies typically don't wear any garments that have pockets. Or worse there are pockets but they are sewn shut so that you don't use them by mistake and make an ugly looking bulge ;).

    As for guys, it might work, but I doubt a significant number of us would intentionally buy a phone with this. If us guys wanted an antitheft phone we'd just buy a really cheap phone. Or "customize" it to the point where its fence value drops immensely.

    A way to reduce phone theft is by phone makers making their phone IMEIs very hard to change (and ensuring that they are unique), and the cellular providers blocking stolen phones (even globally).
  • by Dachannien (617929) on Saturday October 09, 2010 @07:43AM (#33844394)

    The New iPhone: John Cleese Edition!

  • by vtcodger (957785) on Saturday October 09, 2010 @07:45AM (#33844406)

    Great!!! I've always wanted a phone that won't work if I am jogging, riding a horse, skiing, walking on ice, sprain my ankle, having a gout attack, riding a bicycle, fleeing for my life, .... When can I expect to be able to buy this wonder?

    • This is only basic research. I am sorry to inform you that you will have to wait some time until you could get such a phone, but I'm sure you could find an app for that.

      P.S. I know he was joking, don't Whoosh me.

    • I've always wanted a phone that won't work if I am [...] riding a bicycle

      Bad example. Riding a bike while talking on the phone is like riding a bike with 0.08% ethyl alcohol in your blood.

      • I've always wanted a phone that won't work if I am [...] riding a bicycle

        Bad example. Riding a bike while talking on the phone is like riding a bike with 0.08% ethyl alcohol in your blood.

        You mean it will damage my liver?

    • by msclrhd (1211086)
      ... broken your leg
      ... wearing high-healed shoes for the first time (or different sized heel)
      ... wearing rugby shoes or other similar shoes (e.g. with spikes to grip ice when climbing)
      ... walking on icy/slippery ground
      ... dancing/skipping while walking
      there are many situations in which your gait can change
    • Great!!! I've always wanted a phone that won't work if I am jogging, riding a horse, skiing, walking on ice, sprain my ankle, having a gout attack, riding a bicycle, fleeing for my life, .... When can I expect to be able to buy this wonder?

      You're a slashdotter, when are you going to do any of that?

  • They seem to have a pretty poor error rating.

    From TFA: "they were only able to achieve a 20 percent Equal Error Rate (EER), which means that one time out of five, the phone registered either a false positive or a false negative when trying to determine the identity of the user. And that's with the phone in a hip holster, oriented in the same way every time."

    Also, I recently injured my leg - would I be unable to use my phone with my new limp?

    • by fractoid (1076465)
      Just because it's not bulletproof enough for you to use it to unlock your bank account, for instance, doesn't mean it's pointless. Maybe if a company phone has multiple users, it could update the company phone list with the person who's currently using it?
    • As one of the authors I do agree with you that 20% EER is not the best. Since submitting this article we already went down to 10%. On gait with normal accelerometers (so not the low quality ones in the phones) we even get down to 1.5%. Still not as good as fingerprint, but on the other hand, it is unobtrusive. If you hurt your leg permanently, then just make a new reference template. If it is just temporary, then you need to realize that this gait recognition is just an extra security measure, so you no lon
  • I just see it now. Neo running down the road, grabs the phone off the guy standing at the corner while in full stride, tries to call for help and it locks up on him. He can't ask for instructions to get to the exit and guesses his way around and walks into 3 agents who kill him.

    Wait that kinda happened anyway so it wouldn't save us from 2 horrible sequels.
  • Without having done any reading, research or anything, I am guessing the same technique could be married to known gait characteristic of early onset Multiple Sclerosis. I do know it is quite specific and is usually undiagnosed till a drastic stage. For example, you push the brake pedal and the car doesnt seem to slow very well. Well before that stage is a gait change. Then "duck walking" where the step seems exaggerated. Was just a thought having learned from seeing a family member go thru the symptoms.
  • ...My phone becomes dead weight. Or when I'm dancing. Or doing -anything- besides walking exactly how I normally walk. How about when I walk with my wife? She's 5'2", I'm a foot taller. I normally walk a lot faster by myself, but she has short legs. This is one of those ideas that should have never made it past the "Hey, you know what would be cool?" phase.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Interesting. It might be difficult to get the software flexible enough to deal with all possible paces for the same person, but consider this: each person's legs are a specific length. The way a person walks is intimately tied to the length of their legs, as well as the shape of their hips and their overall weight. It is not unreasonable to suspect that sufficiently-accurate accelerometers could distinguish between peoples' movement no matter how fast they were moving (walking, running, whatever).

    The mai

    • The way a person walks is intimately tied to the length of their legs

      This is true in most but not all cases. Gaits like a bear walk [youtube.com] or a crutch walk [youtube.com] or a tripedal fist walk [youtube.com] might not be close enough to the typical human bipedal gait to get recognized. So in order for the phone to qualify under some countries' accessibility laws, it will have to consider a wide variety of unusual gaits. (Yes, there is a ministry of silly walks, and it's part of physiatry.)

    • The way a person walks is intimately tied to the length of their legs, as well as the shape of their hips and their overall weight.

      However my overall weight can change quite significantly over a very short time. It's called backpack.

  • must resist bee gees joke...
  • Or you stub your toe, or are sore from a run, bought a new pair of shoes....

  • Wow, I remember reading about this a long long time ago. There's a reference to an article of 2007 in there, but this must have been around 2000. Sadly I can't seem to find the link to that article (oh, surprise), Well, I guess most things are bound to be invented at least twice with the amout of people with grants out there...
    • 2000 is certainly too early, but 2007 might be a good estimate when people started saying that this would be a nice application for mobile phones. However there is a distinct difference between saying it and actually doing it!
      • Hmm, you're right that 2000 is probably too early, but 2007 is way too late. The research was done by a research group that published the results, and if I'm not completely wrong they came up with a false negative rate of 85-90%.

        I don't quite remember when the first accelerometer phones were out, but I think this was done with either one of the first ones with it, or a prototype phone. I only remember this because I was interested in this technology, but didn't expect to get one for a long time.

  • Gait vs password? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Freddybear (1805256) on Saturday October 09, 2010 @09:41AM (#33844772)

    Don't completely disable the phone. If the gait analysis comes up "wrong" then require the user to enter his password again.

  • I wonder if the 10 steps it takes the average American to and from their SUV is enough to differentiate by gait - or waddle....
  • Sherlock Holmes is/was/is a master of many things, including mimicking the gait of another, so this won't impact his activities. Listen does anyone really want this? Some days my back is hurting, some days my legs are hurting, I'm pretty sure I don't walk the same every day. I like to make calls sitting down. I like to borrow my girlfriend's phone to make a call sometimes. I don't really make calls while skipping down the street, but I would like the option to do so. The downsides and frustrations of this t
    • by iamhassi (659463)
      "Listen does anyone really want this?"

      I'd give it a try. It doesn't have to "lock up" permanently, maybe it could just lock and ask for a password if it notices something might not be right? Many people keep their phone locked 24/7 anyway and always require a 4 digit pin so this wouldn't be inconvenient to them at all. I don't keep my phone locked but I do worry about theft, sounds like this system would be the best of both worlds, even if it's wrong 20% of the time I wouldn't mind having to enter a p
  • so now we could use a phone to assassinate somebody with out them having to actually answer the call. though, if it's an explosive in the unit itself, a better way to ensure a kill is if the phone is up against their head. but if it a GPS bomb fired from a drone/plain i'm sure close is good enough.

  • I've got bad knees. Some days, the pain is so great to just bend my knee that I limp.

    I guess on those days, I don't need to be calling anyone, anyway.

    How long would this take to establish your gait? Front pants pocket? left or right? Back pocket? Cargo pocket? Coat pocket? Surely holding it up in your hand wouldn't work, as an arm is going to counteract the bouncing of a step and hold it steady. Maybe held lightly swinging in the hand.

    And what if I was carrying a backpack? Or briefcase? Or....reall
  • very cool ! here`s another one http://www.shop-overzicht.com/ [shop-overzicht.com]
  • There has been research and even products made to do the same thing in recognizing the distinct patterns or each users' typing. I recall first hearing of this in the early 90s, and it probably goes back further than this. Here's two examples:
    http://cs.unc.edu/~fabian/papers/fgcs.pdf [unc.edu]
    http://www.securitysoftwarezone.com/keystroke-recognition-review273-7.html [securitysoftwarezone.com]

    These passive biometrics are all great(TM) solutions -- they take advantage of highly idiosyncratic, repetitive, and difficult to forge characteristics o

  • My mum doesn't own a phone, I lend her mine when she is going out and I'm staying home. She is a bit of a technophobe and has trouble even unlocking the keypad with two keystrokes, let alone entering a password!

    A phone with this enabled would be near impossible to lend to her. I'm not saying it's a bad idea but it'd need to be something that can easily be disabled.
  • How about a different ring tone depending on how your walking/strutting? If you like barely moving, or standing still, it goes quiet for stalking mode. Big ass strut will play whatever the popular tone is for picking up the ladies.

    lets see, the "on the bed stand and it's shaking" mode so it will go silent and not interupt your session with a crack ho.

  • Geez, I want a phone! These manufacturers should stop adding anti-theft/anti-use/anti-whatever features and focus on making it work better as a phone.
    This is just going to make cellphones more and more expensive to add in more bells and whistles which some people never use.
    Is it not possible to funnel money used for development of things like this into the cellular system? I would like subsidized calling. How about a free cellphone service?
    Something like that is actually making progress. Think about it l
  • You don't want to disable 911 or its international equivalents period. If the guy who mugged me is calling 911 on my stolen phone, chances are someone someone's life is at risk. I certainly wouldn't want to find out that some child hit by a car died because I'd installed some stupid app and the mugger saw it and was *trying* to do the right thing and call 911..

  • not only that you could bind your creditcard to your geolocation so basicly have update your smartphone your location like in google latitude and if you have creditcard use that it monitors the possible location, .. to prevent creditcard abuse.

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