Hack that android phone

Your Android device’s Pattern Lock can be cracked within five attempts

The popular Pattern Lock system used to secure millions of Android phones can be cracked within just five attempts – and more complicated patterns are the easiest to crack, security experts reveal.

Pattern Lock is a security measure that protects devices, such as mobile phones or tablets, and which is preferred by many to PIN codes or text passwords. It is used by around 40 per cent of Android device owners.

In order to access a device’s functions and content, users must first draw a pattern on an on-screen grid of dots. If this matches the pattern set by the owner then the device can be used. However, users only have five attempts to get the pattern right before the device becomes locked.

New research from Lancaster University, Northwest University in China, and the University of Bath, which benefitted from funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), shows for the first time that attackers can crack Pattern Lock reliably within five attempts by using video and computer vision algorithm software.

By covertly videoing the owner drawing their Pattern Lock shape to unlock their device, while enjoying a coffee in a busy café for example, the attacker, who is pretending to play with their phone, can then use software to quickly track the owner’s fingertip movements relative to the position of the device. Within seconds the algorithm produces a small number of candidate patterns to access the Android phone or tablet.

The attack works even without the video footage being able to see any of the on-screen content, and regardless of the size of the screen. Results are accurate on video recorded on a mobile phone from up to two and a half metres away – and so attacks are more covert than shoulder-surfing. It also works reliably with footage recorded on a digital SLR camera at distances up to nine metres away.

Researchers evaluated the attack using 120 unique patterns collected from independent users. They were able to crack more than 95 per cent of patterns within five attempts.

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 categorised as complex within the first attempt. They were able to successfully crack 87.5 per cent of median complex patterns and 60 per cent of simple patterns with the first attempt.

Researchers believe this form of attack would enable thieves to access phones after pinching them to obtain , or would allow malware to be quickly installed on devices while their owners were distracted.

In addition, given people often use the same pattern across multiple devices a pattern obtained from one device could be used to access a second device.

Dr Zheng Wang, principle investigator and co-author of the paper, and Lecturer at Lancaster University, said: “Pattern Lock is a very popular protection method for Android Devices. As well as for locking their devices, people tend to use complex patterns for important financial transactions such as online banking and shopping because they believe it is a secure system. However, our findings suggest that using Pattern Lock to protect sensitive information could actually be very risky.”

“Contrary to many people’s perception that more complex patterns give better protection, this attack actually makes more  easier to crack and so they may be more secure using shorter, simpler patterns,” Guixin Ye, the leading student author from Northwest University, added.

The researchers have proposed suggested countermeasures to prevent this attack. They include device users fully covering fingers when drawing the pattern; or pattern lock designers mixing pattern locking with other activities such as entering a sentence using Swype-like methods; in addition having the screen colour and brightness change dynamically could confuse the recording camera.

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NOT Holding the line, anymore

If you hate hold music, you’ll love this.

Boston-based startup GetHuman on Wednesday unveiled a new service that lets you pay $5 to $25 to hire a “problem solver” who will call a company’s customer service line on your behalf to resolve issues. Prices vary depending on the company, but GetHuman offers to fight for your airline refund, deal with Facebook account issues, or perhaps even prevent a grueling call with Comcast to disconnect your service.

“These customer service procedures have become these long obstacle courses for us,” Christian Allen, GetHuman’s CEO, said in an interview. “We avoid them, we procrastinate, and in some cases we don’t do them at all.”

Allen knows the struggles with customer service all too well, after he put off canceling a hotspot service through a wireless carrier. When he finally got around to making the call, he was bounced around and ended up stuck on the phone. Three months later, he had to go through the whole process again because the service hadn’t been canceled the first time around.

“I spent three hours of my life to do this really simple, binary decision,” he said.

GetHuman can work as a consumer’s assistant, Allen said, but some companies do require more authorization than others.

GetHuman started as a company phone directory that helps people find shortcuts to a live person. But after realizing that getting people the right numbers was only half the battle, Allen said, GetHuman decided to start a pilot of its new “problem solvers” service late last year, saying it has already served nearly 10,000 people. The eight-person shop now has five full-timers whose primary job is working the phones trying to resolve other people’s customer service issues.

Allen says his employees are “experts” at this kind of work and he plans on hiring two more callers soon.

There are a few similar services for navigating the maze of customer service, including FastCustomer, which focuses more on saving you from waiting on hold.

Not everybody sounds so thrilled by GetHuman’s new service, though. Time Warner Cable, whose new ad campaign jokingly addresses its poor reputation with customer service, said it would still like to hear directly from its customers. But you don’t even have to call. They have 24/7 online chat support and the MyTWC app.

“Spending your money on a third party who doesn’t know you versus clicking on an app that lets you do self-service seems like an easy choice to us,” TWC spokesman Bobby Amirshahi said.

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When Is It Inappropriate To Answer Your Cellphone?

These days, it’s almost impossible to escape the near-constant presence of cellphones in our daily lives. 92 percent of Americans now own one, according to findings published by Pew Research. It comes as little surprise that people tend to answer their phones everywhere imaginable – the library, the park, the cinema and so on – locations many people consider inappropriate.

The American public certainly have varying views about when it’s ok or not ok to answer their cellphones. Phoning while walking down the street, traveling on public tranportation or waiting in line are all viewed as generally ok by the vast majority of people. However, at a restaurant, six out of every ten respondents said it is generally not ok to answer that buzzing or ringing cellphone.

Surprisingly, some people (just 5 and 4 percent respectively) even think it is generally ok to take a call at a movie theatre or during a church service.

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