Feeds

Snooping on movement can reveal smartphone PINs

Accelerometer as attack vector

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

It’s not the first time boffins have proposed the use of smartphone accelerometers as an attack vector, but it’s scarily efficient: with as few as five guesses, Swarthmore College researchers say they can use phone moments to reveal user PINs.

As noted in his paper (PDF - Practicality of Accelerometer Side Channels on Smartphones, lead author Dr Adam Aviv says phones' movements have been investigated as an attack vector before. Prior work has, however, used the phone’s gyroscope – or a combination of gyro and accelerometer – as the input sensor, and with relatively low accuracy (he cites a test that gave a worst case needing 81 guesses to arrive at the correct PIN).

This new study collected 9,600 samples from 24 users both sitting and walking, and tested both pinpad and swipe-pattern data entry. The data-gathering apps installed on the test phones captured the phones’ movements during PIN/swipe entry, and matched these against a database of known patterns:

“In controlled settings ... with the participants sitting still] our prediction model can on average classify the PIN entered 43% of the time and pattern 73% of the time within 5 attempts when selecting from a test set of 50 PINs and 50 patterns. In uncontrolled settings, while users are walking, our model can still classify 20% of the PINs and 40% of the patterns within 5 attempts.”

The paper suggests that accelerometer data should be denied to untrusted applications “when sensitive touchscreen input is being provided to other applications” – noting, however, that the all-or-nothing model for trusting Android applications is insufficient to protect against such attacks.

The phones tested in the study were the Nexus One, Nexus S, HTC’s Droid Incredible, and the T-Mobile G2. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
George Clooney, WikiLeaks' lawyer wife hand out burner phones to wedding guests
Day 4: 'News'-papers STILL rammed with Clooney nuptials
Shellshock: 'Larger scale attack' on its way, warn securo-bods
Not just web servers under threat - though TENS of THOUSANDS have been hit
Apple's new iPhone 6 vulnerable to last year's TouchID fingerprint hack
But unsophisticated thieves need not attempt this trick
PEAK IPV4? Global IPv6 traffic is growing, DDoS dying, says Akamai
First time the cache network has seen drop in use of 32-bit-wide IP addresses
Oracle SHELLSHOCKER - data titan lists unpatchables
Database kingpin lists 32 products that can't be patched (yet) as GNU fixes second vuln
Researchers tell black hats: 'YOU'RE SOOO PREDICTABLE'
Want to register that domain? We're way ahead of you.
Stunned by Shellshock Bash bug? Patch all you can – or be punished
UK data watchdog rolls up its sleeves, polishes truncheon
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.