To all the Android phone holders out there, that ever so complicated lock pattern you thought was unbreakable can in fact be hacked in just five attempts…
For those that have shunned the ever-popular i-phone in favour of the Android (yes, we know it has better memory, battery, pixels, ___ insert other tech word here, but we’re not budging), it may also have one major drawback with its passcode entry.
A lock pattern is the pre-set (by you) line combination you draw with one finger on an Android to gain entry into your phone and is preferred often to a code or letter password. In fact, 40% of owners use it. However, Studies by security experts show that those with their snazzy lock pattern combinations can be more easily hacked.
Of course it isn’t as easy as a guessing game. New research from Lancaster University, Northwest University in China, and the University of Bath has shown that attackers use video and computer vision algorithm software to do it. What exactly is that you may be asking? From what we gather, those sneaky hackers will be videoing us while out and about. You could be having your morning coffee in Costa, or sitting on a bench outside your office waiting for a colleague and they will be using special software to track your fingertip movements. Soon after, the hacker will have access to several possible combinations and therefore have access to our Android phone. And yes he’s likely to be doing it before he then pinches it off you. Pretty scary, huh?
What’s even more worrying is if the attacker is using a mobile phone to record us, he can do it from two and a half metres away and as far as nine metres with digital cameras. You may be thinking that a hacker will never be able to work out your combination from nine metres away, but the software used means the screen doesn’t even have to be in full view for it to work. In fact, just to prove it further, researchers found they were able to identify 95 per cent of patterns within just five attempts.
So what’s the advice?
If you’re still not convinced to give it up, at the very least try not to use patterns for access to your bank or paying for items. Dr Zheng Wang, principle investigator and co-author of the paper, and Lecturer at Lancaster University, said:
As well as for locking their devices, people tend to use complex patterns for important financial transactions such as online banking and shopping because they believe it is a secure system. However, our findings suggest that using Pattern Lock to protect sensitive information could actually be very risky.”
Now, if you’re thinking of making your combination super complex then think again. The harder the lock pattern, the easier it is to crack. Something mega techy to do with algorithms and it narrowing the options. Researchers who tried to crack more complex codes were able to identify them with a 60 per cent success rate in just ONE attempt.
Guixin Ye, the leading student author from Northwest University said:
Contrary to many people’s perception that more complex patterns give better protection, this attack actually makes more complex patterns easier to crack and so they may be more secure using shorter, simpler patterns.”
All you need to know is, keep it simple.
Researchers have also suggested we cover up our hand when drawing a pattern.
Of course the other option is to ditch your cool lock code and simply choose a number combination like the rest of us. Or pick an i-phone next time…then you can do that even more snazzy fingerprint entry. You’ll feel less like Einstein and more like a detective fighting crime in no time!