Smartphone sensors can leak the four-digit PIN code to hackers

Haythem Elmir

Smartphones have remained the primary domain of experimentation for cybercriminals as they are always finding out ways to exploit and crack smartphones mainly Android devices. Apparently, researchers at Singapore based Nanyang Technology University or NTU Singapore, have identified a brand new way with which cyber-crooks can compromise a smartphone, which involves the use of device’s sensors.

Believe it or not but the very own sensors of a smartphone could provide cyber-criminals the key to cracking your device. Researchers found that 99.5% of the time the method worked and their device got unlocked. It is worth noting that the researchers tested the method thrice and monitored the data from six sensors installed on an Android smartphone. They were able to correctly guess the 4-digit PIN code for the device.

Researchers tried to identify the PIN code through exploiting sensors installed inside Android smartphones by letting three people enter a varied range of 4-digit number sequences (about 70 times) randomly and then applied machine learning to the sequences in order to predict the pin code. The team tested six sensors including the magnetometer, accelerometer, gyroscope, ambient light sensor, barometer and proximity sensor. They noted that when combined with the accelerometer, the gyroscope gave much accurate information and the team hit 10,000 4-digit combos of codes every time. The smartphone they tested had one of 50 most commonly used PIN codes.

Smartphone sensors can leak the four-digit PIN code to hackers
10 records where the keys 0-8-5-2 were pressed for two different sensors. Red
dots signalize the time where the display was touched, while green dots signal the
release. (Screenshot grab: NTU)

Finally, they managed to guess the PIN code with 100% accuracy, which is a ground-breaking discovery since previously in a similar research the Newcastle University, UK, researchers could guess PIN code of a smartphone with 70% accuracy.

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