Your Android phone may not be quite as secure as you'd think, researchers say
Android smartphone users may need to beef up their security protection following the revelation that one popular phone locking method is remarkably easy to crack.
The Pattern Lock system, used by millions of Android users around the world, can be hacked in just a small number of guesses by hackers using sophisticated new software, researchers have revealed.
It can take as little as five goes to correctly guess a device’s code, with a huge majority of users reportedly at risk.
The news comes from a Chinese-British team of researchers who carried out a major study into how secure Pattern Lock really is.
Around 40 per cent of Android devices use Pattern Lock to secure their phones, the report quoted a recent study as finding.
However the team found that the system, where the user traces a pattern across their phone screen to unlock their device, can be easily hacked.
They developed a powerful algorithm that was able to crack the vast majority of Pattern Lock codes using video footage of victims using their device.
These pictures show how the researchers were able to steal device login information
The researchers say cracking the code could be achieved by sneakily filming a victim whilst using their device in public.
This footage would then be fed into the algorithm, which then gets to works on guessing the lock pattern within seconds.
The attackers would not even need to be close to the victim, as the team was able to steal information from up to two and a half metres away by filming on a standard smartphone camera, and from nine metres using a more advanced digital SLR camera.
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The simulated attack did not even need to view footage of the screen, just the ability to track the motion of a user’s finger, from which it can guess the pattern.
The researchers tested the attack on 120 unique patterns from 215 users, and found that 95 per cent of patterns were able to be hacked within five attempts.
Ironically, the team also found that longer patterns were easier to hack, and 97.5 per cent were accessed in just one attempt.
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"Pattern Lock is a very popular protection method for Android Devices. 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," said Lancaster University lecturer Dr Zheng Wang, principle investigator and co-author of the report.
"However, our findings suggest that using Pattern Lock to protect sensitive information could actually be very risky."
In order to stay protected, the researchers recommend that users keep their screens and fingers hidden when using Pattern Lock, much as they should do when entering their PIN number at a cashpoint.
If you think you’ve been the victim of a cyber-attack, you can follow Express.co.uk’s guide to the next steps to take here.