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Swipe a shape to unlock your Android phone? Here’s how insecure that is

I recently bought (second hand but as-new, from Computer Exchange) a Samsung Galaxy Note.

Although for most of my mobile phone-owning career I’ve had reasonably high-end smartphones (because it’s like I always say, actually making and receiving phones calls is the last thing I use a mobile phone for), this is probably the most expensive and highest end of all of the phones I’ve had, and for that reason I decided that I probably actually ought to use a security code to lock and unlock it, rather than leaving it insecure all the time. I’d seen my friend on her phone use the modern Android swipe a shape to unlock feature, and thinking that looked quite cute – and probably more secure than a standard PIN – set up the feature on mine.

Yesterday I was sat in a meeting with my phone in front of me, the screen off, and I could see quite clearly just how totally insecure the swipe unlock is:

So after just a few days use, the shape of my swipe unlock code can clearly seen traced in greasy fingermark on the screen (trust me, it was more clearly displayed when you actually look at it in real life) – so it wouldn’t take a master phone thief to work out how to unlock it, and the more one uses it, the more ingrained the greasy pattern will be into the screen, and the less likely it will be to be cleaned off by routine cleaning. And apart from myself who tends to keep an obsessively clean phone screen, how many people routinely clean it anyway?

So I’ve switched off the swipe-to-unlock, and gone for a traditional PIN instead. No, it’s not my birthdate, it’s the opening of a famous Balinese gamelan tune.

One Response to Swipe a shape to unlock your Android phone? Here’s how insecure that is

  1. Emma says:

    That’s why you have to be clever with the pattern you draw. I’ll have to show you what I mean when I see you.

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