Even though security within technology is improving all the time, the advanced nature of the Digital Age means that intruders, malware makers and generally unscrupulous folks also have a robust tool set through which they can commit their unethical activities. As discovered by a group of researchers at the University of Massachusetts, the ubiquitous nature of mobile cameras makes it incredibly easy for a PIN or passcode to be logged and perhaps even utilized in an automatic fashion, and products like Google Glass, in particular, could prove problematic to the security-conscious consumer.
Glass is still currently in beta, with Google having just rolled out its Explorer program across the pond to the UK, and even though it has been in the hands of developers for the best part of a year, that early buzz surrounding the technology still remains strong. But while we’ve seen police forces from Dubai to NY testing out the credentials of the head-mounted gizmo in the fight against crime, the Massachusetts researchers have highlighted some potential drawbacks to the technology, with custom-built video-scanning algorithms able to pick up on, say, a PIN code with little to no effort on the part of the person in possession of the software.
The research team found the algorithms to be accurate more than 80 percent of the time, and given how some successful PIN code-logging was done from several meters away during the experiment, it’s not as though a potential criminal would need to be shoulder-surfing in order to hack into your sensitive data.
The research, which will be exhibited at the Black Hat security conference later on in the summer, only concentrated on shorter passwords, but computer science professor Xinwen Fu, who led this particular investigation, believes that similar techniques could achieve a near-80 percent accuracy in picking up longer passwords from tablet users.
Such instances, if nothing else, highlight the need for services like fingerprint scanners, and with Apple’s Touch ID having been followed up by the fingerprint sensor in the Galaxy S5, at least mobile vendors are already onto the fact that passwords, passcodes and pattern-based systems aren’t nearly secure enough to counteract the sophistication of tools available to intruders.
To give yourself the best chance of not being caught out by any such techniques, be sure to use a strong password wherever possible, and when typing in your credentials, try to obscure your typing sequence from potentially prying eyes.