Sensor data in smartphones make them vulnerable to hacking: Study

Published on January 1, 2018

Passwords are meant to keep your accounts secure. However, if hackers get hold of your passwords then naturally, your accounts are no longer safe. There are many different methods through which these potential hackers could gain access to your passwords. The chief and probably the easiest of these methods would be different sensors existing in smartphones. Sensors that come preinstalled on most smartphones – including the accelerometer, gyroscope and proximity sensors – are known to provide a gateway to hackers, a new research published by Indian Express reveals.

The research – which was conducted by an expert team based at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore – was led by an Indian-origin Dr. Shivam Bhasin. He along with his team of experts carried out tests through the means of a combination of information from six different sensors of smartphones.

The sensors included an accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, proximity sensor, barometer, ambient light sensor. It was later found that through the use of these sensors, they were able to obtain several passwords to different accounts of the users. They were able to unlock Android handsets with approximately 99.5 percent accuracy within the first three attempts itself.

“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,” the post quotes Dr. Bhasin, whose team on the 10-month project included David Berend and Bernhard Jungk.

The latest research study has been published in Cryptology ePrint Archive. According to the report by Indian Express, the researchers made use of sensors located in smartphones to a model which number had been pressed by its users. Through this, they were able to gauge how the handset was titled and how much light the user’s thumb or fingers blocked.

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