Android pattern locks are apparantly a whole lot safer than I thought

I don’t really have incredibly important information on my cell phone, but it’s still nice to know it’s somewhat protected. Like anyone else I have e-mails, text messages, contacts, photos and passwords to some websites on it, and so I obviously use the built-in Android pattern lock, which requires the user to enter a specific touch pattern before locking up the phone. I have never considered it a safe way of protecting my information, but more like a way of disrupting anyone who wants to take a quick peak, if I drop my phone, leave it on a desk, or if it’s stolen. It’s a good way of making it harder for anyone who wants to look at it, but I assumed that just like a regular computer password or a lock on a bag, just about anyone who wants to unlock it can, if they try hard enough.

But apparently it’s better than I thought. The FBI are currently struggling with unlocking a suspect’s Android phone, failing to get past the pattern lock, and they have now contacted Google – the manufacturer of Android – for help.

Still, any lock should always be seen as a delayer. History has shown us that just about any lock can be broken through by just about anyone who knows how to google or know what people to contact. Collection all your information at a single place – be it in a drawer, in a cell phone, on a computer or at Google Docs – is just stupid. Plus, according to a 2010 CNET article, the smudges left on the touch screen can easily reveal your pattern long after you recorded it, even if you swipe it off. I couldn’t detect any patterns on my own phone when testing, but I’m sure it would show up if you take a photo and play around a little on the photo processor of your choosing. That said, I can imagine that the easy way of getting around it is to simply change your pattern once in a while (which also hinders ninjas peaking over your shoulder).

ars technica · CNET · Ubergizmo (image source)

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