Your phone’s passcode should be keeping your phone safe — but thieves could be using Google Glass to figure out how to get into your phone or ATM account instead.
Researchers at University of Massachusetts found that using the video component on wearable tech like Google Glass made it easy for would-be thieves to view four-digit PIN codes typed onto an iPad from almost 10 feet away, reports Wired.
“I think of this as a kind of alert about Google Glass, smartwatches, all these devices,” says Xinwen Fu, a computer science professor at UMass Lowell. “If someone can take a video of you typing on the screen, you lose everything.”
Fu and his students tested several video-enabled devices. Google Glass and the Samsung Gear smartwatch were able to catch the PIN code with 83% accuracy from three meters away. A $US72 Logitech webcam picked up the PIN 92% of the time. And an iPhone 5 camera was able to identify the PIN in each case.
Fu noted that Google Glass, despite being less accurate than the iPhone, was the perfect device for intercepting passcodes and other personal information — think credit card numbers or private messages — because it’s at the eye-level position. Google, of course, disagrees.
“Unfortunately, stealing passwords by watching people as they type them…is nothing new,” a Google spokesman wrote in a statement to Wired. “We designed Glass with privacy in mind. The fact that Glass is worn above the eyes and the screen lights up whenever it’s activated clearly signals it’s in use and makes it a fairly lousy surveillance device.”
Of course, the problem lies with the brevity of the passcode itself and not so much with wearables. iPhone users can create longer and more complicated passwords for themselves by selecting “Simple Passcode” under Settings. Android users can either create longer passwords or use facial recognition technology to unlock their phones — as long as they have the Ice Cream Sandwich operating system or higher.
And devices like the iPhone 5S and Samsung Galaxy S5 have fingerprint sensors that can unlock the phone without a passcode.
And Bill Gates filed a patent earlier this year that would edit or blur the content on any device’s screen, keeping your information safe from people trying to do any kind of e-surveillance.