How Safe is Your Android Pin Code? A New Robot Can Easily Break In

By on Aug 27, 2013

By now, many smartphone users know that a first step to securing their mobile data is to lock their phones with some sort of passcode, the most common method being the four-digit PIN. Admittedly, a PIN code seems pretty safe and practically impossible for a human to break—considering the time it would take to manually enter every possible four-digit combination. For man it may be impossible, but not so for machine. For R2B2, a robot built with the sole function of breaking into any passcode-locked Android, it takes but a day.

What is R2B2, you ask? R2-D2’s lesser-known robot cousin? In fact, this small “droid” shares little resemble to the famed Star Wars character, other than a persistence to finish a task. Mashable recently released news of the PIN hacking robot called R2B2 — or Robotic Reconfigurable Button Basher. Created by Justin Engler, a security engineer at iSEC partners, R2B2 was designed with a simple, solitary function: cracking any Android four-digit locking code, and it can do so in less than 24 hours.

What’s interesting about R2B2 is that there is no highly specialized software behind the hacking device and it uses no type of malware either. For the most part, it’s a simple robot with arms and legs that are programmed to manually enter all 10,000 possible combinations of four-digit passcodes until it reaches the correct one to unlock a particular phone. Using software that contains a database of all possible numerical arrangements, R2B2 relies on a “brute force” method that by today’s technological standards is quite basic.

In truth, R2B2 does not seem to be a potentially dangerous threat. The chances of leaving your phone in the grasp of a four-digit-passcode-hacking robot are minimal. However, the fact that such a tactic can still prove effective bares consideration. R2B2 is an elementary piece of technology today, but its ability to very quickly and easily enter correct passcodes is a sign that four numbers are not enough to effectively protect mobile devices. As we have discussed previously, there are many steps that you should take in protecting your mobile data, but setting up secure passwords for your devices is still a solid first step.

Mobile users have many threats looking to get into their devices everyday, many more malicious than a small robot. Here a few of tips to help keep your information safe when it comes to password protection:

  • Opt for stronger passwords on your device. Instead of using a 4-digit PIN, consider using a secure passcode. Using a more secure code with a variety of characters—upper and lower case letters, numerals and special characters such as @, # and $—increases the security of your device.
  • Change your passwords often. Hackers will have difficulty keeping up with your vigilant security awareness. It’s recommended that you change your passwords several times a year, on all of your devices.
  • Make sure it’s not easy to guess. Steer clear of passwords that use any personal information, such as birthdays and family names. Choose something uncommon and add symbols and numbers mentioned above to make your password even stronger.
  • Protect your devices with comprehensive security. McAfee® Mobile Security protects your smartphone or tablet from the latest mobile threats, risky apps and mobile malware. It also offers enhanced privacy and backup features, location tracking and McAfee SiteAdvisor® to help you steer clear of dangers when searching on mobile.

By remaining aware of the existing mobile threats and keeping track of your mobile usage and security, not even R2B2 can get the best of you.

 

About the Author

Lianne Caetano

Lianne Caetano currently serves as Director of Global Product Marketing for the Cloud BU at McAfee. During her 7+ years at McAfee, she has held leadership roles in the consumer and enterprise divisions where she has helped shape product portfolios and strategic direction along with advocating for cybersecurity education. Prior to McAfee, Lianne has worked ...

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