Why Pattern Locks Are Not Secure on Android (And What To Use Instead)

Smartphones have become a device where you keep a lot of personal data. You may have information such as your credit card numbers, address or scanned personal documents. Because you have such sensitive data, you add a security method to prevent others from accessing it.

A popular security method around 40% of Android users choose is a pattern lock. A pattern lock may sound more appealing because it’s easier to enter. Also, no one can see you tap on particular letters and numbers. But, are pattern locks really that secure?

According to new security research from Lancaster University, Northwest University in Chine, and the University of Bath, 95% of Android patterns can easily be guessed in 5 attempts or less. This study discovered that hackers could easily guess your pattern lock by filming you as you enter your pattern lock.

The hacker can easily be up to two and a half meters away and only use their smartphone’s camera to record you entering your pattern lock. If they were to use a digital SLR camera, they could even be as nine meters away regardless of the size of the phone’s display.

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Once they have the video footage, they use a computer vision algorithm to process your finger movements. Within seconds, the algorithm will then give the hacker some possible pattern lock combinations to try out.

There is also no need to record your phone’s display since the algorithm can give possible combination by only focusing on your finger movements.

Is it safer to use a more complex pattern? No, since the more complex they are, the easier they are to guess. This is true because they help the algorithm narrow down the possible combinations. Dr. Zhheng Wang, principle investigator and co-author of the paper said that people have a tendency to use more intricate patterns when trying to protect important financial information.

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If you don’t want to change your pattern lock method to a password or pin, try using a shorter one since they are not as easy to crack. The researchers also advise that users cover the display while entering their pattern lock, just like when you enter your pin at the ATM.

Keeping your smartphone’s display clean is also a good idea because someone can guess your pattern by the smudges on the phone screen.

If you’re ready to leave your pattern lock behind, a pin, face recognition access or a fingerprint (if possible) are also great options. Traditional passwords are also a great option but the longer they are, the better. Adding some special characters to your password will secure your information even more.

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When creating your password, never use personal and obvious information. For example, never use your kids or spouse’s birthday or your wedding anniversary.

Locking your Android device with a pattern lock is definitely more convenient, but it’s not the safest method to choose from. Passwords to take longer to enter but will do a better job of keeping your data safe. What security method do you use? Drop a comment and let us know.

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