VocalLock: Sensing Vocal Tract for Passphrase-Independent User Authentication Leveraging Acoustic Signals on Smartphones

Li Lu, Jiadi Yu, Yingying Chen, Yan Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Recent years have witnessed the surge of biometric-based user authentication for mobile devices due to its promising security and convenience. As a natural and widely-existed behavior, human speaking has been exploited for user authentication. Existing voice-based user authentication explores the unique characteristics from either the voiceprint or mouth movements, which is vulnerable to replay attacks and mimic attacks. During speaking, the vocal tract, including the static shape and dynamic movements, also exhibits the individual uniqueness, and they are hardly eavesdropped and imitated by adversaries. Hence, our work aims to employ the individual uniqueness of vocal tract to realize user authentication on mobile devices. Moreover, most voice-based user authentications are passphrase-dependent, which significantly degrade the user experience. Thus, such user authentications are pressed to be implemented in a passphrase-independent manner while being able to resist various attacks. In this paper, we propose a user authentication system, VocalLock, which senses the whole vocal tract during speaking to identify different individuals in a passphrase-independent manner on smartphones leveraging acoustic signals. VocalLock first utilizes FMCW on acoustic signals to characterize both the static shape and dynamic movements of the vocal tract during speaking, and then constructs a passphrase-independent user authentication model based on the unique characteristics of vocal tract through GMM-UBM. The proposed VocalLock can resist various spoofing attacks, while achieving a satisfactory user experience. Extensive experiments in real environments demonstrate VocalLock can accurately authenticate user identity in a passphrase-independent manner and successfully resist various attacks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number51
JournalProceedings of the ACM on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 15 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Human-Computer Interaction


  • FMCW
  • User authentication
  • acoustic signal
  • passphrase-independent
  • vocal-tract behavior


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