Why Your Smartphone's PIN is Far More Vulnerable Than You Think

Last Updated Jun 19, 2011 10:46 PM EDT

We've been reminding you about the need for strong passwords for so long that we trust you aren't using 123456, letmein, or iloveyou like the Internet at large appears to be doing. But have you put a similar amount of thought into your phone's lock screen PIN? A recent study shows that a thief has a decent chance of guessing your PIN in just a few attempts -- long before your data would be wiped.

Here's what happened: Recently, Daniel Amitay, author of an app called Big Brother Camera Security, added some code to his app to collect anonymous data about people's PIN logins. On his blog, he published the results. Like other studies about passwords, this one shows that people tend to choose recklessly simple PIN numbers.

The ten most common PINs:
  • 1234
  • 0000
  • 2580 (straight down the middle of the keypad)
  • 1111
  • 5555
  • 5683 (spells out LOVE)
  • 0852 (straight up the middle of the keypad)
  • 2222
  • 1212
  • 1998
Graphically, it looks like this:


Amitay says that these ten PINs represent the top 15% of all PINS -- and that means someone who has physical custody of your phone, either through theft or loss, stands a statistically significant chance of actually gaining access to your data within the ten login attempts that most phones allow before wiping data.

The remedy? Don't rely on common pattern-based passcodes. Choosing four 5's isn't clever; thousands of other people are going the same thing as well, making it very easy to crack.

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