nk497 writes "The smudges left behind on touchscreen devices could be used to decipher passwords to gain access, according to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania. The report tested the idea out (PDF) on Android phones, which use a graphical pattern that the user traces to unlock the handset. The researchers took photos of the smudge trails left on the screen and bumped up the contrast, finding they could unlock the phone 92% of the time. While they noted Android 2.2 also offers an alphanumeric password option, the researchers claimed such a smudge attack could be used against other touchscreen interfaces, including bank machines and voting machines. 'In future work, we intend to investigate other devices that may be susceptible, and varied smudge attack styles, such as heat trails caused by the heat transfer of a finger touching a screen,' they said."
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