Jim is a hacker. He has a small team off tech boffs who know all about writing codes, app creation and more importantly, hacking. Jim is a naughty man, and he is a clever one at that. You see, Jim and his team have created a useful app, one which people will download on their smartphone without the slightest inkling of anything sinister.
The unscrupulous team have taken advantage of the fact that they don’t need permission to access the sensors on your phone and they’ve created a malicious programme which will record your sensor data. Jim is busy rubbing his palms together because over a short period of time he has been able to collate your data and determine you pin numbers without you even realising it – he’s quids in!
Do you tilt your phone?
Researchers from Newcastle University have been busy analysing the way people tilt their phones as they use them. Try it for yourself: lock your phone and enter your pass code. See, you tilt your phone a little with every digit, don’t you? Well that’s the problem!
When you enter your pass codes, pin numbers and passwords you create a different movement with each action which is picked up by the sensors that are built into your smartphone. In fact, everything you do, from clicking, holding, tapping and scrolling leads to you holding your phone in a particular way.
Using the sensor data, the university researchers found they achieved 70% accuracy on their first guess when they attempted to work out four-digit pins and this increased to 100% accuracy after five attempts.
Dr Maryam Mehrnezhad, from Newcastle University’s school of computer science, said:
“Most smartphones, tablets and other wearables are now equipped with a multitude of sensors (gyroscope, rotation sensors, accelerometer, etc). But because mobile apps and websites don’t need to ask permission to access most of them, malicious programmes can covertly ‘listen in’ on your sensor data.”
How to protect your security
According to university cyber-experts, technology companies such as Apple and Google are well aware of the problem but they simply have no idea on how to combat the issue. The best thing you can do to protect yourself as much as possible is to close your apps after every use and close your web pages, too.
Dr Mehrnezhad went on to explain that “On some browsers we found that if you open a page on your phone or tablet which hosts one of these malicious codes and then open [another page], then they can spy on every personal detail you enter. And worse still, in some cases, unless you close them down completely, they can even spy on you when your phone is locked”. Scary stuff.
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