Having proper Android security should always be a goal as protecting the important information on your phone must be a priority. Research has shown that nearly 40% of Android users have pattern locks on their phone, and further research is showing that they are not as secure as you hoped them to be.
Android security issues: Pattern locks
Most Android users that use a pattern lock feel that they are safer than the traditional alphabet and number system of PINs. The data will make you think that pattern locks are more secure:
- Four digit pin have around 10,000 different combinations.
- Pattern locks, with nine nodes, offer over 389,000 different locks
Your phone is full of sensitive information such as your address, credit card data, banking apps (which are terrible), and sensitive photographs which should be protected by an app locking tool. Don’t let this be you:
My friend’s phone (android) has been hacked. Everything he does if Facebook and WhatsApp is forwarded to his girl’s phone. How do you stop that?
— mnaka (@_Mdooh) December 2, 2017
You should definitely secure this data, and you would think that intricate pattern locks will be the ultimate solution. It’s wise of you to start thinking about these things, but we may show you right now that pattern locks are an Android security issue.
Why pattern locks don’t work for Android security
A team of researchers comprised of the US Naval Academy, and members of the University of Maryland Baltimore County, published a study looking at six point Android unlock patterns. This study found that:
- Patterns could be re-created by two out of three observers.
- This is when viewed from a distance of 4 to 5 feet, and after one viewing.
- This is roughly the same distance as someone sitting behind you on public transit, in a restaurant, standing in line behind you, or anywhere else in public.
Professor Adam Aviv went on to say in this study that:
“Patterns are really nice in memorability, but it’s the same as asking people to recall a glyph. Patterns are definitely less secure than PINs.”
Another issue is the feedback lines as you trace your finger. This helps people also see your pattern and remember it. Different versions of Android vary, but you can turn it off by going to:
- Lock screen
- Secure lock settings
- Turn off ‘make pattern visible’
Before you get too excited, even turning this off does not have that significant of an impact on whether or not someone will remember your pattern.
How to get more Android security
People are now using fingerprints and facial recognition, but pins and patterns are still largely used. Those who do not want to use fingerprints or facial recognition, such as those who do not want to be forced by police or law enforcement to open their phones without a warrant, will not be using biometrics. Here are a few things that you can do to make your unlock screen more secure:
- Do not start your pattern from the top left. It’s too obvious of a place to start as it’s where most people start reading from.
- Make sure to cross over your pattern at least once.
- Turn off the show pattern feature in your security settings.
Those are limited, and there are still other ways that you can get better Android security:
- Continue using traditional PINs, but make them longer.
- Do not use any personal information, such as your birthdays, anniversaries, or address.
- Add in unique characters with your password.
- There are also alternative lock screens that you can put on your Android device. This can be used as a screen which opens up certain features, but not everything, as you have to enter another password to get full access. Search for 3rd-party lock screens.
Passwords and biometrics are the best things that we have going right now. If you choose to continue using a pattern lock, please try to combine it with at least one other locking method.
Other Android security tools
Once you have the perfect lock screen, you need to secure your Android when you are using it. If you ever use public Wi-Fi networks, such as that the local shopping mall, coffee shop, or restaurant, you will need to protect yourself within encryption. This is because hackers like to set up their own Wi-Fi networks in public spaces so they can hack the connection.
You can automatically protect yourself by downloading a VPN, and connecting to a server as soon as you connect to public Wi-Fi. My top recommendation for this is IPVanish VPN. They are not just great for Android security, they work across a wide range of devices which will protect you on nearly everything you use to connect to the Internet.