Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 7th 2014 Contents B30
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, August 7, 2014
Passcodes are outdated. They re
a pain to use, and they aren t
secure when they are based on
easy-to-guess digits, such as a
birthdate or street address.
Many people don t bother using
them on phones, even though that
means any thief can get instant
access to e-mail, banking apps
and more. Fortunately, phone
makers have started to come up
with alternatives to passcodes.
Apple included a fingerprint
sensor in the iPhone 5s last year.
Later, HTC included one on its
HTC One Max, while Samsung
added it to its latest flagship
phone, the Galaxy S5. Samsung s
Galaxy Tab S tablets also have
fingerprint sensors. With all of
these, you can unlock the device
with your fingerprint and avoid
typing in numbers on the screen.
The iPhone s sensor still works
well after nearly a year of use. I
begin by training the phone to
recognise up to five fingers. To
unlock the phone, I simply touch
the home button for about a sec-
ond. It works when my finger is
upside down or sideways, but the
sensor has trouble when it s wet
or greasy. In such cases, I can go
back to using the passcode.
Samsung s approach is similar,
except it recognises only three
fingerprints, and it requires you
to swipe down on the home but-
ton rather than simply touch it.
The fingerprint can be used to
authenticate purchases using the
PayPal app or to unlock the
device s private mode, which lets
you hide photos and other doc-
uments you designate as sensi-
The HTC One Max s sensor is
on the back rather than on the
home button. Unfortunately, it
often fails to recognise my print.
I like that I can instruct the phone
to open a particular app auto-
matically depending on the finger
I use. The sensor isn t available
with the HTC One M8, which
came out in March.
Many security experts have
expressed concerns that once a
finger s compromised, you can t
replace it the way you can a pass-
No one s saying these measures
are foolproof. But they are better
than no security, which is what
happens when people turn off the
passcode feature because it s too
much of a hassle. Since the pass-
code can be used as a backup,
don t make it easy to guess.
Most Android phones have
passcode alternatives under
"Security" or "Lock screen" in
Instead of a numeric passcode,
you can opt for a regular pass-
word. You improve security by
choosing a combination of num-
bers and letters, some capitalised.
You can throw in some punctu-
ation marks, too. Though security
improves, convenience drops.
Another option, called Pattern,
lets you draw a pattern on the
screen. You are presented nine
dots, and you must connect at
least four of them by swiping on
the screen using a pattern you
can remember. Your passcode is
Though it s easier to swipe than
to type, it s actually less secure.
Someone with the phone can
guess your pattern based on
smudge marks on the screen.
LG s new G3 phone gives Pat-
tern a twist.
Picture a square divided into
four quadrants. You create a code
by tapping on the various quad-
rants in an order you ll remember,
such as upper left/upper right/
lower left/upper right. You need
at least three taps, but you can
go as long as eight, for more than
80,000 possible combinations.
This approach, known as Knock
Code, doesn t leave smudge marks
the way Pattern does.
Plus, you have flexibility in the
way you define your quadrants.
You can divide the entire phone s
screen into four quadrants, or you
can pick a small corner and divide
that into quadrants. That way,
you re not being obvious with
your taps when you re in a public
place. You don t have to choose
ahead of time. The phone figures
After six failed attempts, you re
required to use your passcode or
sign in with your Google account.
All of these security measures
do make it less convenient to use
your phone, as it means an extra
step to send a quick text message
or view a photo. These alternatives
aim to reduce the inconvenience
enough that you ll have something
in place if your phone falls into
the wrong hands. (AP)
Secure your phone
A customer configures the fingerprint scanner technology built into the Apple iPhone 5S at an Apple store in
Wangfujing shopping district in Beijing. AP PHOTO
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