iPhone PIN Code Hack Using Thermal Imaging

iPhone PIN Code Hack Using Thermal Imaging

For every technology that is available to the public to use for good, it seems that there are at least 50 bad guys out there who determine a way to use it for malice. Such is the case with FLIR, a company that develops thermal imaging systems to “improve the way people interact with the world around them, enhance public safety and well-being, increase energy efficiency, and enable healthy and entertained communities.” (Remember,FLIR’s technology was used to find the Boston Marathon bomber hiding in aparked boat outside someone’s home.)

Since then, FLIR has developed a thermal camera for the iPhone 5 and 5s; FLIR ONE fits directly onto the phone’s screen. Weighing in at just 3.9 ounces, it is light and compact, but packs a powerful punch to enhance the users’ perception of the world around him or her. With practical uses such as finding electrical shorts at your home, checking around your car that is parked in a dark parking lot to detecting intruders in your home or back yard, the malice comes when it is used to capture PIN codes on keypads at retail cash registers.

According to UC San Diego researchers’ data, they were able to guess the correct PIN codes 80% of the time if the thermal image was taken right after someone touched the keypad. Even if the image was taken 1 minute later, researchers still had a 50/50 chance of guessing the correct code.

So, how do we protect our PIN codes from getting stolen from thermal cameras? After you enter your PIN code, simply rest your hand over the whole keypad, covering all the numbers for a couple of seconds. This makes the thermal image read as just a blob of color, “erasing” the numbers you just pushed.

Oh, and another precaution: Do you have one of those fancy keypad locks on your home or office? Be sure to cover all the numbers after entering your access code, just in case someone is following you and wants to gain access behind you.

About the Author

Ginger Hill is Group Social Media Manager.

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