If you think about it, our smartphones hold a lot of information about us. It knows who your contacts and friends are, it takes snapshots of our lives through photos and videos, it knows where you have been and where you are going, your browsing habits, your financial transactions and your shopping habits; It knows almost everything about you!
But how safe is your smartphone from potential snoopers and hackers? I hope you are using some kind of security system on your gadget to protect your privacy.
Surprisingly, more than a third of smartphone users don’t even bother to use the simplest 4-digit passcode to keep their gadgets secure. Now that’s a security lapse you should never do.
Currently, there are multiple ways to lock and unlock our phones – face scan, thumbprint, iris, passcode, pattern and more. Which are more secure than others? And which one should you use? Read on and tackle each one.
Passcodes are the most common security smartphone methods. They range from standard 4-digit numeric codes to complex multi-character passwords. It’s always a choice between convenience and security, really.
You can program a simple 4-digit PIN, which is easier to hack than a 37-character alphanumeric password, but you can unlock your phone faster with it. The trick with passcodes is to make them a bit longer so they thwart potential snoops – but also easier for you to remember.
Many iOS users are not aware that they can create a long numeric PIN. When you are presented with the alphabetic keyboard to generate a password, switch to the numeric keyboard and enter your code.
Even a 5- or 6-digit PIN is increasingly secure than a 4-digit code – unless it’s 123456. From then on, the lock screen will show you the numeric keypad when it asks for your passcode. For ultimate security, I recommend a password that is a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. Aim for at least eight characters.
Keep in mind that even with newer biometric systems like fingerprint scanners, facial recognition, and iris scanners, your smartphone’s passcode is still your last line of defense, so make it as strong as possible without making it too cumbersome.
If you own an Android phone, you might be using the pattern lock system instead of a PIN code or password to secure it. This is the popular system where you draw a pre-selected pattern on a grid of dots to unlock your phone. The reason this system is popular is its convenience and ease of use. This is a fast way to unlock your phone.
However, studies have shown that pattern unlocking is very unsafe and you should stay away from using it. Two out of three observers from six feet or less away can only recreate the pattern after seeing it once. After entering the pattern twice, this number reaches an 80 percent success rate.
If you love the Android pattern lock system, there’s a way to make it a little more secure. You should stop the “feedback” lines that line your finger as you enter the pattern.
Here are the steps to turn off the Feedback line on Android: Go to Settings >> Lock Screen & Security >> Secure Lock Settings >> Turn off the Make Pattern Visible option.
You can increase your pattern nodes to eight or nine nodes. A hacker or snoop trying for a quick score won’t bother trying patterns with that many nodes when most people only use four or five.
Since the introduction of Apple’s Touch ID, fingerprint scanners have been considered more secure than passcodes. Apple claims there is only a one in 50,000 chance that someone else’s fingerprints could fool Touch ID.
The security of fingerprint biometric systems is important as they are currently being used for phone unlocking, app authentication and making payments.
Although security researchers have managed to lift one’s fingerprint and create latex copies to fool Touch ID, it’s an extremely technical process that the average user shouldn’t worry about.
With that said, fingerprint scanners are still a better security system than passcode or pattern unlock.
Facial recognition has now become a common feature in most smartphones. It allows the user to unlock the phone just by looking at it. The method is designed to be faster than fingerprint or iris unlocking without skimping on security.
Unfortunately, the 2-D version of this biometric security feature is easy to bypass. In fact, this weakness has been tried and tested with smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S8. All any potential hacker really needs to fool the 2-D facial unlocking system is a photo of the phone’s owner.