An Android unlock patterne not as secure as PIN codes and fingerprint scanners and can be easily copied, new research has revealed.
A new study which compared the different systems used to unlock smartphones found that someone with little technical know how could copy the Android unlock pattern, even from a distance of up to two meters.
The study was carried out by researchers at the US Naval Academy and the University of Maryland Baltimore County who found that passcodes are far more secure than unlock patterns.
The researchers said that someone could carry out what is known as ‘shoulder surfing’ to guess or even memorise the unlock pattern.
Shoulder surfing occurs when a bystander watches a potential victim unlock their using an unlock pattern.
The study asked 1,173 to watch videos of people unlocking their phones. They were then asked to repeat what they saw in the video.
More than two thirds of people were able to repeat the six point pattern on a three by three grid – the same type used on Android phones.
While 60 percent of people were able to reproduce the pattern after watching the video once, that figure shot up to 80 percent after watching it twice.
However, guessing a passcode was found to be much difficult with only one in ten people able to enter the code after watching the video, with only 11 percent able to guess the passcode after watching the video once, and 27 percent after watching it twice.
The researchers said the findings show that the patterns are more memorable and the shape of them makes them easier to be spied on compared to when typing numbers into a passcode.
If you currently use a passcode to unlock your Android device might want to switch to using a passcode or a fingerprint scanner. You can do this by going to Settings > Lock screen and security.
“Analyzing the results, we found that in all settings, Android’s graphical pattern unlock is the most vulnerable, especially when feedback lines are visible,” authors of the report wrote. Newer smaller-screened iPhones that require a 6-digit passcode, are more secure, researchers said.
“Overall, it appears that the larger phones provide less security for shoulder surfing,” researchers said.
“These results support what we as a community have believed to be true anecdotally, and further demonstrates that current authentication methods provide stronger security against shoulder surfing than one might expect,” researchers said.
This isn’t the first study to find that the pattern unlock system is easy to hack.
Earlier this year a Chinese/British research team based at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom found that hackers could comprise the pattern unlock by recording footage of someone unlocking their phone.