Motion sensors could unlock smartphones, say researchers

Smartphone motion sensors could prove a security vulnerability in helping criminals work out locking codes, say US security researchers

Smartphone motion sensors could comprise a security vulnerability in helping criminals work out codes used to lock the devices, say US security researchers.

By analysing data gathered by accelerometers, which track movement in three dimensions, they were able to get a good idea of the number code or pattern used to protect a phone, according to the BBC.

The US researchers were able to use data gathered by the accelerometers to work out where the phone was pressed by whoever had unlocked the device using a number code or pattern.

In tests, data from accelerometers was analysed and compared with a record of taps and swipes that had been previously gathered to see if there were any matches.

The software developed by the research team got more accurate the more guesses it was allowed. After five guesses, it could identify codes 43% of the time and patters about 73% of the time.

However, these results were achieved when codes and patters were chosen from a set of only 50 numbers and shapes.

The method was less accurate when applied to data gathered from real world users. The researchers said using a phone while on the move introduced more noise, making data harder to decode.

However, security researchers are investigating sensors further because the data they gather is typically not as tightly controlled as other phone functions or apps. The researchers believe it could be exploited by criminals.

As smartphones are increasingly used for accessing remote data and carrying sensitive business and personal data, security vulnerabilities in these devices are attracting the attention of criminals and researchers alike.

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