Android Security

Pattern Locks Are NOT Secure on Android Devices

Ben Stegner 01-02-2017

Our phones contain lots of personal information, so it’s essential to lock your device using one of several choices. On Android, you can choose from a PIN, pattern, or password. Since a password takes too long to type out all the time, most people use either a PIN or pattern code.


We’ve also discussed whether a fingerprint is better than a PIN Should You Use a Fingerprint or a PIN to Lock Your Phone? Should you protect your phone with a fingerprint or a PIN? Which one is actually more secure? Read More if your phone supports it. But if you use a pattern, you might want to think about choosing another method ASAP.

New security research has found that 95% of Android patterns can be cracked within the five attempts that the phone gives before locking you out temporarily. By filming people while they unlock their phones with a pattern and using a computer vision algorithm to process finger movements, these researchers are able to guess patterns with high accuracy. Further, the more complex the patterns, the easier they are to guess using this method.

Of course, we have to take this with a grain of salt, since anyone filming you will obviously have an advantage in guessing your lock screen code. Aside from this, though, pattern locks are simply less secure than a PIN, due to the fewer possible combinations and ease of guessing the code from screen smudges.

For most people, we recommend a PIN (along with a fingerprint if you phone supports it) for the greatest balance of security and convenience. Don’t be afraid to make it longer than four digits, and don’t forget about Android’s Smart Lock, which lets you automatically unlock your phone Smart Lock on Android Makes Locking Your Phone Way Easier It's annoying to always have to unlock your phone, but it's unsafe to never lock it. Thankfully, there's a nice middle ground: Smart Lock. Read More when you’re at home or in the car.

Check out our lock screen security tips Improve Your Android Lock Screen Security With These 5 Tips You're perhaps reading this thinking "hah, no thanks MakeUseOf, my Android is secured with a lock screen pattern – my phone is impregnable!" Read More for more on Android security.


How do you secure your Android lock screen? Will you rethink using a pattern lock after reading this? Add your thoughts by leaving a comment!

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