Why Pattern Locks Are Not Secure On Android (And What To Use Instead)

Did you think that pattern locks could safeguard your phone from cyber attackers? Research coughs up an entirely different finding. It suggests that pattern locks on Android devices are not as safe as you thought them to be though they are used as a popular security mechanism by nearly 40% of Android users.

They are widely used as people feel that they are safer as compared to using alphabets and numbers. The Android pattern lock was introduced initially in 2008 when it was presented as a simpler and secure alternative to using the traditional PIN.

Why Pattern Locks Are Not Secure On Android


As opposed to a standard 4-digit pin that enables around 10,000 possible combinations to its users, a secure lock pattern with 9 distinct nodes can offer 389,112 possible locking patterns.

Considering that your phone today is extensively used as a device to store a lot of personal data like address, credit card numbers or even scanned copies of other personal and financial documents, would you take a risk?

While you might have devised a pattern lock to protect others from accessing all such sensitive data, the question is whether it is actually safe.

Researchers at the US Naval Academy and the University of Maryland Baltimore County published a study that exhibited any six-point Android unlock patterns could be recreated by two out of three observers, who could see it being performed even from a distance of 4-5ft after a single viewing.

Professor Adam Aviv of Naval Academy says 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.”

The study also pointed out that turning off the ‘Feedback’ lines that trace your finger’s path while you swipe through a pattern could help reduce the potential to spy. However, 35% of the online research subjects could identify a pattern without those feedback lines as well.

Different versions of Android require slightly distinct steps for switching off the feedback line. The basic steps entail heading into Settings, tapping into Lock Screen and Security, then Secure Lock Settings and turning off the Make Pattern Visible option.



So, What Is The Alternative To Using Pattern Lock?

Though today Android users unlock their phones with a fingerprint or facial recognition, many still rely on PINs and patterns, especially when the phone is either turned on or when a biometric reader fails.

Several security-sensitive users disable biometrics to avoid deceiving attackers or being coerced to unlock their device by authorities.

If you still want to use a pattern password, you could try to make it better by using an entire bunch of notes or by making a crossover pattern across a bunch so that it is difficult to read from a distance. Moreover, avoid starting from the top left node.

Most importantly, don’t forget to turn off the “Show Pattern” in your device’s security settings. However, once you are convinced that it’s better to try other options rather than using the pattern lock, you can use face recognition access or a fingerprint mechanism to protect your device.

If you are using Android on your PC, you can scout for mobile apps for PC.

Some Of The Other Options:

Firstly, experts believe that using traditional passwords could be a safer option, indicating that creating longer codes could secure your device better. Secondly, they also warn against using any personal and apparent information like birthdays, anniversaries, etc., while creating passwords. Thirdly, you could combine the password with some unique characters to make it further unique.

Secondly, you can install Alternative Lock Screens on your Android device. These usually require drawing patterns to unlock the screen where you can use a customized third-party lock screen to stand out.

The third-party lock screen will add features that you desire on your phone like listening to music or getting significant notifications and correspondingly, allowing unlocking with a fingerprint sensor. Mostly pre-installed by the device manufacturer, this feature connects to the fingerprint sensor hardware on the phone.

By using this feature, you could rest assured that anyone holding your phone in their hand will not be able to access any information from it. However, it’s always a wise decision to check the compatibility, features, and appearance before installing the most suitable one.

While locking your device with a pattern lock may appear convenient as opposed to alternative ways, it might not be the safest method to choose from. It’s only matter of time that technology comes up with a stellar solution for this!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.