Keeping Smartphone Data Safe with PINs and Knock Codes

July 06, 2020

Within the smartphone industry, security is paramount. Most phones now come with the security features turned on, making it impossible to use a smartphone without a PIN, knock code, the owner’s face or fingerprint. All of these security features are there for one purpose only: to protect the increasing amount of personal data connected to a user’s smartphone, from contacts to email and social media accounts to banking information.

But are these security features working? Fingerprints and facial recognition software are a bit harder to crack, as long as they’re working properly, but not every smartphone comes equipped with these features. Also, not every user wants to use them. The other options, knock codes and PINs, can be effective, but unfortunately in many cases the codes and PINs users pick aren’t secure enough: they’re easy to guess, making it a moot point to use them. If you sell smartphones that use knock codes and PINs as their locking/unlocking features, here are some of the things you and your customers need to know about keeping their data safe.

Knock Codes

Knock codes are usually several numbers presented in a two-by-two grid, which the user must tap in a correct sequence to open the phone. The code is typically between two and ten taps. These codes can be a high security way to protect a smartphone, however sometimes it backfires: in a recent study, researchers found one in ten participants forgot their own codes. Also, knock codes take about 5 seconds to enter, which is more time than it takes to enter a PIN. 

Personal Identification Numbers (PINs)

PIN stands for Personal Identification Number; anyone with a debit card was probably already familiar with the PIN even before smartphone security started using them. For cell phones, PINs are usually four to six digits, which can mean that they’re fairly secure. However, despite the potential these PINs have to increase security, few users pick really secure PINs. There are more than 10,000 combination options available for four-digit PINs, and up to one million combination options for six-digit PIN numbers. Unfortunately, most users choose one of just a few PINs that are easy to remember and easy to guess.

According to a recent study by a team of German-American IT professionals, the top ten most popular four-digit PINs are: 1234, 0000, 2580, 1111, 5555, 5683, 0852 (all numbers are in the center row), 2222, 1212 and 1998. The most popular six-digit PINs are 123456, 654321, 111111, 000000, 123123, 666666, 121212, 112233, 789456 and 159753.

Fortunately, smartphone manufacturers are helping customers to make more secure decisions and keep their data safe. For example, Apple prevents users from choosing some of the most common and easy-to-guess PINs. Many cell phone manufacturers will lock a phone for a number of hours after too many incorrect PIN entries. 

The moral of the story? When you sell a cell phone that requires a knock code or a PIN, encourage your customer to pick a difficult code. Ultimately, it will be worth the effort of learning a more complicated set of numbers to keep their data safe.