Dr Richard Guest involved in project to use smartphone sensors to recognise legitimate access attempts

Fingerprint scanners are all the rage, yet new research shows that this is just the beginning of biometric identification.

With millions of people around the world now using fingerprint readers, facial recognition software and iris scanners on a daily basis to access their smartphones or to authorise mobile banking services, there is a need to ensure these remain secure.

Hackers have shown it is possible to fool smartphone fingerprint sensors, for example, into giving them access to devices, while others have developed ways of breaking into devices that require facial recognition or voice identification.

The solution is to use the array of sensors in a smartphone to recognise the owner, and add extra layers of security when the phone gets picked up by a stranger.

‘You have a lot of sensors on mobile phones like screens, gyroscopes, GPS, cameras, microphones – these all provide information you can use to support authentication,’ said Dr Richard Guest, from the School of Engineering and Digital Arts at the University of Kent.

Dr Guest is leading a team in developing software that can identify someone from the way they swipe the screen, the orientation they hold the phone in and the way they move when it is in their pocket, as part of an EU-funded research project called AMBER.

In one recent study, Dr Guest and his colleagues showed it is possible to determine whether someone is male or female just from the way they swipe.

But biometrics are not just useful for protecting against criminals – it could also be used to catch them. The confident swagger of a thief who thinks they have got away with it could become their downfall thanks to an arsenal of new forensic techniques being developed to identify suspects.