New Study Reveals Hacking Vulnerability of Smartphones due to Sensors

New Study Reveals Hacking Vulnerability of Smartphones due to Sensors

A new research conducted in December 2017, discloses that data from smartphone sensors can reveal PINs and passwords to hackers.

Advancement in sensing devices have boosted the demand for wearable sensors, as reported by wearable sensors market report published by Coherent Market Insights. Such sensors are widely used in devices such as mobile phones.

The study conducted by an Indian scientist, reveals that smartphone sensors can disclose vulnerable data such as passwords and PINs to hackers, enabling them to unlock mobile devices. The instruments present in smart phones such as the gyroscope and proximity sensors are the cause of the potential security vulnerability, said researchers from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore.

The team of researchers used machine learning algorithms and a combination of information gathered from six different sensors in smartphones. This resulted in successful unlocking of Android smartphones with a 99.5 percent accuracy, within only three tries, when tackling a phone that had one of the 50 most common PIN numbers.

Previously the best phone-cracking success rate was 74 percent for the 50 most common pin numbers, however, the novel technique developed by NTU can be used to guess all 10,000 possible combinations of four-digit PINs.

Researchers used sensors in a smart phone to model the number that were pressed by its users, based on how the phone was tilted and how much light is blocked by the thumb or fingers.

The researchers believe their work highlights a significant flaw in smart phone security, as using the sensors within the phones require no permissions to be given by the phone user and are openly available for all apps to access.

“When you hold your phone and key in the PIN, the way the phone moves when you press 1, 5, or 9, is very different. Likewise, pressing 1 with your right thumb will block more light than if you pressed 9,” said a researcher.

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