Digital Forensics Dispatch

Digital Forensics Blog
by Sensei Enterprises, Inc.

Can a Phone Determine its User’s Identity Based on Just Their Body Movements?

December 16, 2021

According to a recent write up by Steve Bush on, a new study indicates a smartphone could be used to ID who was carrying it based only on their movements. The study, conducted by four academics associated with the University of Plymouth UK, used data from the sophisticated sensors already built into smartphones to build a profile of a user’s movement that could then be used to try to verify their ID.

To collect the data they provided 44 adults with mobile phones to carry for seven to ten days. According to the resulting paper, this was to give each participant time to get at least seven days’ activity in. Most got more with an average of about 8 days’ worth of data collected (about 4,000 sample activities) per user. The phones proved to be relatively accurate at making the determinations with about 85% accuracy in normal operation and apparently closer to 90% if the users were doing a more strenuous activity like walking fast or climbing stairs.

This type of technology might not be replacing your fingerprint face ID or passcode anytime soon but it could be another layer added for security sooner than you think. Nathan Clarke, professor of Cyber Security and Digital Forensics at Plymouth, was quoted as saying “This study demonstrates, for the first time outside of laboratory-controlled conditions, what level of [wearer identification] performance can be achieved realistically.”

When that time comes, it may also prove to be an interesting forensic artifact for examiners to use for user identification.

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