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Feature

What your smartphone knows about you

Watch how you tap that phone, says Lester Kok, as it could reveal information that makes you vulnerable

Your location

Using GPS tracking and Wi-Fi positioning, phones can act as a location tracker. For instance, Google Maps can track where you are now, your home and workplace, where you have been in the last few years, and even predict where your next destination will be tomorrow. Always waking up late for classes and trying to blame that on traffic? Your phone knows better, down to the minute when you left your hall room.

Your daily schedule

Do you like the convenience of logging down every single meeting and appointment on your phone? It’s convenient for hackers too, as they can see where you are going and who you will be meeting. Not only that, thanks to the various motion sensors and artificial intelligence in your phone, it’s not hard to find out the exact time you sleep and wake up daily based on when your phone is used.

Your passwords

Gone are the days of writing passwords on Post-it notes. Instead, you probably let your phone remember them for you. The good news: You never have to type a password again after logging into a website or app once. The bad news? Neither will hackers if they gain access to your phone.

Your family and friends

Your phonebook is a treasure trove of contacts. Together with your LinkedIn and Facebook accounts, they contain all that’s needed to decipher your entire social network, including who your family members, closest friends and immediate colleagues are. This could leave loved ones vulnerable to scams or phishing. Linking your social media friends to your phone book contacts could give their identities away.

The way you tap your phone could give away your PIN

Smartphones make our lives easier with a variety of built-in sensors that detect what we are doing in order to predict what we need. For instance, your phone’s accelerometer and gyroscope come in useful to track when you are working out, tilting your phone to steer a car in a racing game, or pulling the phone out of your pocket to reply a message.

However, these same sensors, which your downloaded apps can easily access, make it possible to hack your phone and guess your PIN number.

In an NTU study led by Dr Shivam Bhasin of Temasek Laboratories@NTU, a combination of sensors, such as the gyroscope, accelerometer and ambient light sensor, was used to guess a smartphone’s four-digit pin code with 99.5% accuracy with a single try. The team tackled phones that had one of the 50 most common PIN numbers. How they cracked the PIN: Each digit you tap on your phone makes the phone tilt a certain way. By detecting how the phone tilts and moves, or how your hand blocks light, the sensors give away vital information that the scientists used.