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Pattern Locks Are Unsafe: Secure Your Phone Now with These Tips


Mar 08, 2024 • Filed to: Remove Screen Lock • Proven solutions

Pattern locks have been available for about as long as people can remember, and they have been hugely popular with people thanks to how easy it is to simply swipe your screen and unlock your smartphone, as against, say, keying in the 4-digit PIN/ 6-digit PIN. However, pattern locks are easy to crack, and today, we bring you all you want to know about pattern locks and how to create a hard pattern lock. Further to this, we also tell you how to move beyond pattern locks and what to do in case you forgot the hard pattern lock you just set and are unable to unlock your smartphone.

creating more secure pattern locks

Part 1: What You Need to Know About Pattern Locks

Pattern lock is an Android-only feature that makes it easy for users to have a modicum of security on their smartphones. Most users do not prefer using and remembering a PIN to unlock the smartphone. Creating a pattern makes it easier, somehow.

There is a 9-point grid on which you swipe your finger from point to point, in any direction, and when you take your finger off, that pattern you swiped becomes the key to unlock your smartphone.

Pattern locks were exceedingly common only a few years ago, and they are not recommended for use any longer due to concerns (mentioned later in the article).

1.1: Popularity and Usage

Old habits die hard, or so they say, right? That’s because it is true. We are creatures of habit, and pattern locks have been around for a long, long time. We are accustomed to pattern locks. So, even with even easier technologies such as fingerprint recognition and face recognition, we tend to gravitate towards the familiar old pattern lock.

The only thing is, there is a reason why pattern locks are no longer the preferred option to use for unlocking your smartphones. As it happens, that reason is security, and it can be very easy for humans to take a swipe (pardon the pun) at your pattern lock. And guess what? The research conducted suggests that they would get it right with an unsettling accuracy.

1.2: Advantages and Drawbacks

With on-the-go lifestyles, our smartphones have become indispensable and contain some of the most sensitive aspects of our lives – IDs, credit and debit cards in digital wallets, photo and video memories, business documents – you name it, the smartphones have it, on the go. This has opened our lives up to the public at large, and if someone steals our smartphone or, best case, finds it, the only barrier preventing them from being privy to all that wealth of our sensitive information is that screen lock – the pattern lock that we set on our smartphones. That’s it – the single pattern lock stands between malicious actors and our data. You might be beginning to realize just how crazy this is.

Advantages of Pattern Locks

There are two advantages to using pattern locks. One, they are better than nothing. Two, they are easy to use. And that’s about it. There is no third advantage to pattern locks. We might think we set a hard pattern lock that nobody could guess, but, as research proves, we might be thinking too low of human prowess.

Disadvantages of Pattern Locks

Security, or rather, the lack of it, is the lone disadvantage of using a pattern lock. What good is a pattern lock that can be easily deciphered? Sure, they are easy to use, and they are better than not having anything, but would you really want to protect your life’s data with something that could be, as researchers found out, breached in under 5 attempts? We don’t think you do!

The research found that 64% of test subjects who were shown videos of people unlocking their phones could correctly guess a 6-point pattern lock, that too after viewing the video only once! That number shot up to 80% if they were allowed to see the video again. That is simply astounding and a nightmare for security. When it comes to PINs, only 11% could guess a 6-digit PIN after viewing the unlocking video once, and that number shot up to 27% when they could see the video two times.

Part 2: How To Create a Hard Pattern Lock (Including Remembering Complex Patterns)

Now, if you must continue using a pattern lock, let’s help you know how to create a hard pattern lock that would not be as easy to decipher as easy pattern locks. For that, you should know how people use pattern locks, the kind of pattern locks they create, and the ones that are the most commonly used pattern locks. That way, you can avoid those fallacies and create a hard pattern lock for your smartphone.

2.1: The Pattern Locks People Use Most Commonly

common pattern locks

Marte Loge, an M.Sc. Computer Science student, gave a presentation on pattern locks at DEFCON 23 and made a bold claim. She said, “Tell me who you are, and I will tell you your lock pattern.”

She presented the following statistics to support her claim:

  • - In her research, she found that 77% of people started with one of the 4 corners when creating a pattern lock.
  • - 44% of people started with the top-left dot and 15% with the top-right, while the bottom-left was preferred by 14% of her test subjects.
  • - People set 5-point pattern locks on average, and most users were content with a 4-point pattern.

These are some of the most common pattern locks people create:

  • - patterns in the shapes of alphabets,
  • - patterns in the shapes of numerals,
  • - patterns in any other simple shape, such as square, triangle, star, etc.

To understand how this is a security nightmare, the possible combinations for a 4-point pattern are a measly 1624, whereas by adding just 1 more point to the pattern and creating a 5-point pattern, the number of possible combinations becomes 7152, an increase of 5528 combinations. In stark contrast, creating a 9-point pattern would give you over 140,000 possible combinations!

2.2: How to Create a Hard Pattern Lock

Knowing what most people do when creating a pattern lock, it becomes easy to avoid those mistakes and instead create a hard pattern lock for oneself.

  • - Do not start creating a pattern lock from any of the 4 corners of the grid.
  • - Never use your first initial as your pattern lock.
  • - Never use the shape of a numeral as your pattern lock.
  • - Use all 9 points on the grid to create your pattern lock, and contrary to popular belief, you can go over the connecting lines several times, creating a hard pattern lock that would not be as easy for people to decipher!

Part 3: Going Beyond Pattern Locks

You might think that now that you have set a hard pattern lock, you are good to go. Hardly. Technology has evolved, so have methods to break into your device.

Step 1: Set a 6-digit PIN

The minimum you should do today is set a 6-digit PIN to unlock your phone. Consider this a necessary investment into the safety of your data residing on your smartphone.

Step 2: Use Fingerprint Recognition (or Face Recognition on Apple Devices)

All modern smartphones released over the last decade have come with fingerprint recognition. Using fingerprint recognition requires you to set a 6-digit PIN and then set a fingerprint to unlock your device. You can set additional fingerprints, too.

This way, your device is the most secure it can be today. In case your fingerprint is not recognized for any reason, the phone falls back on the 6-digit PIN that you can enter and unlock your phone.

While face recognition is available on both Android and Apple devices, it is truly secure only on Apple devices. This is why Apple iPhones released after the iPhone X in 2017 have come only with Face ID. They fall back on a minimum 6-digit PIN (called Passcode in Apple world) to unlock in case the face does not get recognized in the first attempt.

Part 4: How To Unlock Phone If Hard Pattern Lock Forgotten

Just in case you set a hard pattern lock and promptly forgot that abstruse pattern you just set, we have a tool for you to quickly unlock your phone in case of a forgotten hard pattern lock: Wondershare Dr.Fone - Screen Unlock.


Dr.Fone - Screen Unlock (Android)

Remove the Hard Pattern Lock on Your Phone If You Forgot!

  • Remove all Android screen locks (PIN/pattern/fingerprints/face ID) in minutes.
  • Bypass the FRP lock of Samsung without a PIN or Google account.
  • Everyone can handle the lock screen without any tech knowledge.
  • Provide specific removal solutions to promise good success rate.
Available on: Windows Mac

4,624,541 people have downloaded it

Download the latest version of Dr.Fone from the Wondershare website and launch the app.

drfone app

Step 1: Click Android under Toolbox > Screen Unlock.

drfone android screen unlock

Step 2: Click Unlock Android Screen.

drfone screen unlock android

Step 3: Select your device manufacturer.

drfone screen unlock manufacturer selection

Step 4: Prepare your device to unlock the screen.

wipe partition cache instructions

When the greyed Next button becomes available, click it and wait for your device to be unlocked.

screen unlock successful

All data on the device is wiped under this method. Select Samsung phones may be unlocked without data loss. Check this list for devices that may be unlocked without data loss.

safe Downloadsafe & secure

Closing Words

Whether it is an easy pattern lock or a hard pattern lock, the fact is that pattern locks are antiquated and a security nightmare. A minimum 6-digit PIN must be used, and using fingerprint recognition is the preferred way to go for Android devices. Using fingerprint recognition will require that users create a 6-digit PIN. On Apple devices launched after 2017, there is Face ID, Apple’s marketing term for face recognition. If you did indeed still set a hard pattern lock, only to promptly forget it, use Wondershare Dr.Fone – Screen Unlock (Android) to seamlessly unlock your phone right now.

screen unlock

James Davis

staff Editor

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