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If you unlock your Android handset using a pattern, you should consider using a PIN code instead. Because new research shows that Android unlock patterns are really not secure. If no one sees you swiping your finger over your screen then you may be OK, but how many of us even try to hide it?
There are various ways of stopping people from accessing your phone. Apple has been innovating with biometrics, first with Touch ID, and now, with the iPhone X, Face ID. But Android users tend to be stuck choosing between a pattern and a PIN. Only one of which is up to the task.
Android Unlock Patterns Are Useless
Android unlock patterns are, according to a joint study by security researchers at the US Naval Academy and the University of Maryland Baltimore County, really easy to crack. And all it takes is for someone to see you unlocking your phone. After which they can break into it without even trying.
The research paper, titled, “Towards Baselines for Shoulder Surfing on Mobile Authentication” compared the effectiveness of patterns and PIN codes. To test both methods, 1,173 subjects from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk were shown videos of people unlocking their phones using both methods.
The subjects were then asked to guess the unlock pattern or PIN. After just one viewing, 64% of subjects could guess a six-point pattern, rising to 80% after two viewings. In contrast, just 11% of subjects could guess a six-digit PIN after one viewing, rising to 27% after two viewings.
This is clear evidence that unlock patterns are easier for snoopers to both see and remember. Which makes it a lot easier for an opportunistic thief to spy over your shoulder until you unlock your phone, then snatch it, and gain access to everything. Using a PIN makes that scenario less likely.
Switch From Using a Pattern to a PIN
This new research backs up previous research suggesting 95% of unlock patterns can be cracked within five attempts. So, by all means carry on using a pattern to unlock your phone, just don’t blame us when someone else figures it out. The rest of you may want to switch to using a PIN.
Do you use a pattern or a PIN to unlock your phone? Do you hide your pattern or PIN when unlocking your phone? Or do you tend to do it in full view of snoopers? What do you make of the research? Will it change your behavior? Please let us know in the comments below!
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