The Harder Your Android Pattern Lock, the Easier it is to Hack

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pattern lock
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Researchers have found a way to crack the popular Pattern Lock feature on Android phones. The method is effective, but it can be countered, so be informed and be safe.

For millions of Android users, the Pattern Lock feature seems like a novel way to unlock their phones. Yet, that might not be the best idea if they’re looking for strong security.

For some, drawn patterns are easier to remember than numbers, and they also seem more unpredictable for a would-be attacker. The problem, however, is that they are predictable.

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Thankfully, this news comes out of Lancaster University, Northwest University in China, and the University of Bath rather than your local news report. It is unlikely that this method is common knowledge. Still, it makes us think twice before using Pattern Lock.

Breaking Pattern Lock in Five Moves or Less

The researchers formulated a subtle attack plan to beat Pattern Lock. First, they covertly recorded 120 unique patterns from various users, then they fed that information to a computer vision algorithm that was able to track the movement of their fingers and find the correct pattern to unlock the phone. The algorithm didn’t even have to be able to see the screen of the phone to work its magic, and it was able to crack 95 percent of the patterns within only five attempts, which is a magic number because that is how many tries you get before the phone locks out completely.

The algorithm didn’t even have to see the screen to work its magic. It was able to crack 95 percent of the patterns within only five attempts, which is a magic number because that is how many tries you get before the phone locks out completely.

Interestingly enough, the more complex a pattern was, the easier it was for the algorithm to crack it. All it needed was a video that could be discreetly taken from an adjoining coffee table or bar from where the phone user sat. According to the researchers, this kind of attack would make it easy for thieves to access phones after stealing them. It could even be used to install malware while the owner is distracted.

Countering the Method

The method isn’t perfect. As it comes from computer science researchers and black hats, they also provided an effective counter.

First, fully cover your fingers when drawing the pattern. The algorithm tracked the fingers, and if you give it nothing to track then it won’t be able to pick up your password. Also, Android would be well advised to design locking methods that combine pattern locking with some other interactive method, which may be less convenient, but would be more secure than Pattern Lock is on its own. Finally, screens should be a bit more dynamic with their lock screens because changing brightness and screen color could confuse the recording camera.

Also, Android would be well advised to design locking methods that combine pattern locking with some other interactive method, which may be less convenient, but would be more secure than Pattern Lock is on its own. Finally, screens should be a bit more dynamic as changing brightness and screen color could confuse the recording camera.

This is a scary thought for many Android users, but it is better to know and be secure than live in ignorant bliss. Make sure to protect your phone and all the vital information inside.

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