Many of us choose to secure our phone’s to help protect the precious data stored inside. We have photos, apps, and sometimes even bank information stored on our phones. There are several different lock screen security methods that can be used including passwords, Face recognition, pattern, fingerprint and even a PIN number. Generally the most widely used methods are the pattern for Android users and a PIN for iOS. But how easy would it be to steal a PIN number? According to the University of Massachusetts it’s shockingly easy to do, even from a distance.
“Any camera works, but you can’t hold your iPhone over someone to do this, because Glass is on your head, it’s perfect for this kind of sneaky attack.”
Researchers at the University used devices such as an iPhone 5, Logitech webcam, and yes, Google Glass, to test and see how easy it would be to figure out a users password. Without even needing to see your screen, hackers were able to use the cameras on these devices to figure out the PIN numbers of your lock screen with astounding accuracy rates. The Logitech webcam was able to get PINs with 92% accuracy, Google Glass with 83% accuracy, and the iPhone 5 with a perfect score. This all came from a distance too. Glass for instance was able to figure out the PIN from over 10 feet away. The researchers even used a Panasonic Camcorder to record a PIN from nearly 150 feet away and over 45 feet high in a building.
Google however did make a statement on this to defend Glass.
“Unfortunately, stealing passwords by watching people as they type them…is nothing new,” a Google spokesman wrote in a statement. “We designed Glass with privacy in mind. The fact that Glass is worn above the eyes and the screen lights up whenever it’s activated clearly signals it’s in use and makes it a fairly lousy surveillance device.”
The study goes on to recommend that we use other methods of security on our devices like a pattern or with our fingerprint if available. However since a PIN number is a very convenient option for many users, how can we still use it? Well the researchers behind this study aren’t stopping with simply identifying the problem. They are building a new lockscreen application for Android users that changes the location of the PIN keyboard each time the screen is turned on. They are currently developing the software and plan to release it on Google Play in the near future.
“You can’t prevent people from taking videos, But for the research community, we need to think about how we design our authentication in a better way.”