Thursday, November 3, 2011

Mobile screen-spy software recreates passwords

"When one types text messages, emails and login credentials on one's virtual iPhone or Android keyboard, larger bubbles containing each character pop up for a second while the individual keys are being pressed.

But handy as the feature undoubtedly is for those users who have trouble deciphering the smaller characters on the keyboard, it can also be misused for spying on the users' activity.

When typing in confidential information on the phone, the more paranoid among us usually surreptitiously check if someone is behind or near us and can read what we write. But, according to a team of researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, that might not be enough to thwart resolute spies.

To prove their point, they have developed a program called iSpy, which can identify the text a user has typed in by analyzing video footage of the screen while he was doing it. And what's worse, the program can even extract that information from the footage of the screen as it is reflected in a window or one's sunglasses.

To do this, the spy doesn't have to have telescopic lenses or high-end equipment - smartphone cameras are more than enough.

"We then use a number of computer vision techniques to process the recorded video, identifying, for each frame, potential keys that were pressed," explain the researchers. "This visual detection, coupled with a language model, enables us to achieve surprisingly accurate sentence retrieval results, even under challenging real-world scenarios."

Mobile screen-spy software recreates passwords

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