Smartphones also leave fingerprints

Washington: You leave your fingerprints all over — from computer keyboards to doorknobs — but do you know that your smartphone leaves real-time fingerprints that cannot be removed?

Three Indian-origin researchers have demonstrated that the accelerometers used in mobile devices possess unique trackable fingerprints.

Representation pic/thinkstock

These fingerprints stem from subtle idiosyncrasies in device manufacturing and are reflected in the unprotected data shared with numerous applications. Even if you erase the app in the phone, or even erase and reinstall all software, the fingerprint still stays inherent.

“When you manufacture the hardware, the factory cannot produce the identical thing in millions. So these imperfections create fingerprints," explained associate professor Romit Roy Choudhury from University of South Carolina (USC).

Along with graduate students Sanorita Dey and Nirupam Roy, Choudhury found that these fingerprints exist within smart phone sensors. The researchers focused specifically on the accelerometer, a sensor that tracks three-dimensional movements of the phone — essential for countless applications, including pedometers, sleep monitoring, mobile gaming.

The researchers tested more than 100 devices over the course of nine months that included 80 standalone accelerometer chips used in popular smart phones, 25 Android phones and two tablets. The researchers could discriminate one sensor from another with 96 per cent accuracy.

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