Feeds

Snooping on movement can reveal smartphone PINs

Accelerometer as attack vector

Security for virtualized datacentres

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. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
NASTY SSL 3.0 vuln to be revealed soon – sources (Update: It's POODLE)
So nasty no one's even whispering until patch is out
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
Forget passwords, let's use SELFIES, says Obama's cyber tsar
Michael Daniel wants to kill passwords dead
FBI boss: We don't want a backdoor, we want the front door to phones
Claims it's what the Founding Fathers would have wanted – catching killers and pedos
Kill off SSL 3.0 NOW: HTTPS savaged by vicious POODLE
Pull it out ASAP, it is SWISS CHEESE
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
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.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.