Consumer Electronics

Smartwatches May Be PIN Security Breach

Most electronic devices have been hacked over time or have features that weaken their security for personal information. The problem has extended to smartwatches and wearable fitness electronics, according to a new study.

The New Stevens Institute of Technology have released a study, in which its researchers reported:

[T]hose cool wearables just may leak information as you use them. Stevens researchers discovered that the motions of your hands as you use PIN pads, which is continually and automatically recorded by your device, can be hacked in real time and used to guess your PIN with more than 90 percent accuracy within a few attempts.

Such an easy hack is a hacker’s delight.

Researchers added that:

The Stevens team outfitted 20 volunteers with an array of fitness wristbands and smart watches, then asked them to make some 5,000 sample PIN entries on keypads or laptop keyboards while “sniffing” the packets of Bluetooth low energy (BLE) data transmitted by sensors in those devices to paired smartphones.

After capturing the accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer data and using it to calculate typical distances between and directions of consecutive key entries, the team developed a backward-inference algorithm to predict four-digit PIN codes.


The algorithm’s first guess succeeded an astonishing 80 percent of the time, on average. Within five tries, its accuracy climbed to 99 percent on some devices.

So, for personal security, a wearable device may be less secure that smartphones, game consoles and computers.

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