Our own fingerprint smudges on the phone could become our worst enemy if this data falls into wrong hands. According to a new study by German university researchers, it is possible to detect the swipe pattern or the PIN of a phone via a thermal imaging camera by registering the heat traces that are left on the smartphone screen by our fingers.
The researchers from University of Stuttgart and Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, have developed a technique with 80% accuracy in deducing the PIN or the swipe pattern of a phone via an image taken with a thermal imaging camera within 30 seconds of registering the fingerprints on the phone.
The method of attack relies on the simple principle of heat transference from one object to another when they come in contact. When a phone is being held and the user taps in the information, heat gets transferred from the hand of the user to the surface of the phone, thus leaving behind traces that can be analyzed to determine the PIN number or swipe pattern. They have now developed what they are calling a six-step procedure that they believe will have a high success rate in the detection.
So how can you avoid the chances of your phone's PIN or swipe pattern getting into the hands of someone else? According to the study, if there is a single overlap in the authentication or swipe pattern, it automatically minimises chances of the phone being hacked by a thermal attack or if one uses biometric options to unlock their phones then the chances of it being hacked almost becomes nil.
However, since not all smartphones are equipped with a fingerprint scanner, the easiest way to avoid thermal attacks is to put one's palm on the display and keep it there for sometime destroying any identifiable heat signatures.