Worried about your PIN password getting stolen? Optical illusion can help

DECCAN CHRONICLE.
Published Aug 24, 2017, 2:18 pm IST
Updated Aug 24, 2017, 6:04 pm IST
Researchers have developed ‘IllusionPIN’ to prevent shoulder-sneakers spying on your PIN.
All 84 attempts with IllusionPIN returned positive results whereas the present technology failed every single time. (Representative Image)
 All 84 attempts with IllusionPIN returned positive results whereas the present technology failed every single time. (Representative Image)

If you are using a smartphone launched in 2017, chances are that it has an embedded fingerprint sensor, which makes for effortless security verification for your phone. However, some budget smartphones are devoid of that thumb-sized sensor on them, who leave their user at the mercy of the old password/PIN verification methods. The issue with these verification systems is that unknown person can easily spy on your secret codes and gain access to the device later. Thankfully, a solution to this issue has crept up.

A group of researchers led by Professor Nasir Memon has come up with a unique solution that can make PIN unlocking more secure. It’s all about spatial frequency — the smartphone’s display beams two distinct layers of lock screen — one with the normal PIN-pattern code and the other one with a false PIN layout. “The underlying technology blends one image of a keyboard configuration with high spatial frequency and a second, completely different, keyboard configuration with low spatial frequency,” said the NYU University.

The concept behind this technology is simply fooling the eyes of the onlookers using holographic images. Therefore, if you are using IllusionPIN, then you will be able to see the actual lock screen with properly arranged numbers whereas anyone standing at least 0.9 metres from the display of your phone will see a different lock screen with varied number layouts. If your first login attempt is wrong, then the keyboard will change the pattern to ensure that your phone doesn’t compromise on security.

IllusionPIN has already been tested and has come out with flying colours. All 84 attempts with the new technology returned positive results whereas the present technology failed every single time. With positive results, the University is also working towards commercialising this technology.

There’s, however, one issue — despite this technology being highly successful, it is too complicated in comparison to the relatively simple fingerprint scanner method. Also, many third-party lock screen apps have a simple method of jumbling the PIN pattern on every login attempt, which, though not as effective as the IllusionPIN, is still a complex enough for password spies to steal your login PIN codes.





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