The ‘Android Pattern Lock’ has been compromised once again


The Android Pattern Lock is probably one of the most widely used security features of the millions of Android users all around the world. It provides a simple pattern of dots in a 3 X 3 grid that facilitates quick and easy access to your locked device. However, with a security feature that is used in such a wide proportion, comes the question: Is it safe enough? Android has been known for its flaws in security features and once again the idea has been reinforced with the flaw in the Android Pattern Lock.

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A new research performed at Lancaster University, Northwest University in China, and the University of Bath claims that the Android Pattern Lock can be compromised “within five attempts”. That’s right. A video and computer vision algorithm software can be covertly employed to track a user drawing the pattern on their device. This software then produces a set of probable patterns and can probably crack it within five attempts.

According to the report, researchers used 120 unique patterns they assembled from independent users and could crack more than 95% of those patterns within five attempts. Here’s what the report says

Complex patterns, which use more lines between dots, are used by many to make it harder for observers to replicate. However, researchers found that these complex shapes were easier to crack because they help the fingertip algorithm to narrow down the possible options. During tests, researchers were able to crack all but one of the patterns categorized as complex within the first attempt. They were able to successfully crack 87.5% of median complex patterns and 60 per cent of simple patterns with the first attempt

The interesting thing about this software is that it works independently of screen visibility or the size of the screen. By monitoring the position of the user’s fingertips relative to the device’s position, the software can easily guess the unlock pattern. Pretty smooth, eh?

While one might think that more complex patterns make it harder to crack, the research says it’s quite the opposite. More movements of the fingertips mean the software can narrow down the possible patterns. The software can work with a mobile video footage from two and a half meters away. And for footage recorded on a DSLR, the distance jumps up to a whopping nine meters.

This is not the first time Android security feature got into trouble. We have seen much vulnerabilities in the mobile operating system previously. Though Android being the most used OS all over the globe, and its an open source project. This time Google should seriously take some stringent measure to stop such kind of issues from happening. Let us know if you faced any such issues with your Android devices.

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An engineer by profession and a technology enthusiast. When he is not blogging or doing any engineering stuff, you can find him with his guitar, probably working on a new song.

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