Pattern lock is a widely used mechanism for unlocking Android devices. It is possible that one time a little nephew or cousin snooped in while we tried to unlock the phone. We later see them using the device and wonder how they unlocked it. The answer is that pattern lock is easy to crack. And a group of researchers from Lancaster University has proved this yet again.
How they cracked the Android Patetrn lock
These researchers developed a software that cracks pattern lock with 97.5% accuracy. It secretly records the owner while they tried to unlock the phone. The attack works even when it is not recording what is displayed on the screen. The software can work from a few meters away and still be accurate. Even for more complex patterns, the software was still able to unlock the phones. It only took a maximum if 5 trials to unlock all the phones they tested. Here’s a snippet from their published work:
…we employ a computer vision algorithm to track the fingertip movements to infer the pattern. Using the geometry information extracted from the tracked fingertip motions, our approach is able to accurately identify a small number of (often one) candidate patterns to be tested by an adversary. We thoroughly evaluated our approach using 120 unique patterns collected from 215 independent users, by applying it to reconstruct patterns from video footage filmed using smartphone cameras. Experimental results show that our approach can break over 95% of the patterns in five attempts before the device is automatically locked by the Android operating system.
If you are worried about your pattern lock being cracked, you should cover your fingers when unlocking your phone. Better still, you can change your lock mode to PIN or password.