I Can Read That Text Message!

Do you ever worry about someone being able to view a text message or login information for an online account you are accessing via your smartphone in public?  If not, then you should.  Read the article “Illusion of Security” that I wrote where I describe how easy it was to view someone’s login information or text messages when I was sitting behind them at a football game.

Mobile Phone Spying

Just recently researchers have developed a software program that makes the process of allowing someone to gather this information from a distance even easier.  The software can identify text typed on a touch screen from a video even if the video is a reflection from windows or other reflective material.

Worried yet?  Do you want someone to be able to view what you send or type even when they may be 50 to 60 yards away from you?  This software can analyze the video and determine letters and words.  Basically, the software is able to do this because most smartphones (both Android and iPhone) have touchscreens that magnify the letters touched by the user.  The software is able to determine the letter typed based on the location of the magnified letter on the screen.

Like anything the process is not one hundred percent successful, but in the test run by the researchers  letters were able to be identified more than 90 percent of the time.  Reflections captured by video makes it a little harder for the software to make a good analysis of the letters and words because the screen image is usually smaller but was also successful at 10 yards or less.

The software was developed by researchers at University of North Carolina.  The software program is currently tagged “iSpy.”

Protection Against Screen Spying

The researchers that developed this software recommend that users disable the magnified key option on  smartphones.  In addition, users can develop their own privacy screens which would be similar to the plastic shields used on ATM machines.  Lastly, I would recommend that you be aware of your surroundings and never send sensitive text in public.  Don’t connect to an online account when it can be viewed by others, no matter if they are close to you (shoulder surfing) or 50 yards away.

Use common sense and be careful.  Enjoy that smartphone but don’t get bit by it in the process.  If you have any other suggestions for smartphone users, please leave a comment.

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