When you are setting up your phone for the first time, you may have the option to unlock it by fingerprint scan lock or a PIN code. Impressions are unique to you, and a hacker can’t guess what your fingers are like, but does that make fingerprints safer than PIN codes?
Let’s compare the two and see which one is best for you.
When to Lock Using Fingerprint Scan Phone Locks
Fingerprint scanners are very popular on mobile phones right now. They feel safe and convenient, but not perfect.
The Benefits of Fingerprint Phone Locks
The most significant benefit of fingerprint scanners is that they cannot leak over the shoulder. Someone can quickly look at your smartphone as you enter your PIN and learn your code, but it can’t do the same with a fingerprint. As such, fingerprint locks are the best choice against prying eyes.
It is also one of the fastest authentication methods. If you are always unlocking and locking your phone, entering the PIN code can be annoying. Using a fingerprint scanner is the quickest and most comfortable option for chronic phone checkers.
Fingerprints are also great for people with bad memories. Forgetting a PIN is annoying, but it is impossible to lose your fingers. This benefit means fewer locks on your phone and less time spent trying to break into your way back.
The Drawbacks of Fingerprint Phone Locks
It’s easy to believe that your fingerprint, being unique to you, would be impossible for anyone to do. However, several researchers and hackers have found ways around the fingerprint scan.
In 2013, the Chaos Computer Club of Germany took a high-resolution photo of a fingerprint of the glass and used it to make a latex reproduction of the print that could mislead the scanner.
There are probably other methods that have been less widely reported.
When to lock using PIN codes
PIN codes are not as advanced as fingerprint scanners, but they are present on all smartphones. They stood the test of time and kept their position in smartphone security for good reason.
The benefits of PIN codes
The benefits of PIN codes depend on the phone. For example, the spitting iPhone in the center of the FBI / Apple (the one belonging to Syed Farook, one of the San Bernardino snipers), had a security feature enabled that erased the phone’s content after ten incorrect PIN attempts.
If you have something like this on your phone, anyone trying to break into your path would have to have some excellent guesses to make it work. If not, they are out of luck unless they can hack otherwise.
Also, unlike a fingerprint, PIN codes are changeable. If someone has created a recreated template of your print, there is not much you can do to protect yourself. Once a PIN code is compromised, you can set a new one and forget the old number.
The inconveniences of PIN codes
Without extra security features, breaking a PIN is just a matter of time. It could be a very long time, but with an infinite number of guesses, anyone or computer would eventually acquire it.
There are just so many different four- or six-number PINs you can create. Pattern locks are stronger than PIN codes in this regard, but unfortunately, research has shown that pattern codes are not very secure.
Even with the protection from a brute-force guessing attack, someone may be able to get in if they’re highly motivated. There was an iPhone hack that turned it off after an incorrect PIN entry, so the wrong suggestions counter didn’t increase. This attack took advantage of an old bug and no longer worked, but it shows that no system is perfect.
The point is, however, that someone could guess your PIN, while no one can guess your fingerprint. If a thief stole a phone without brute force protection, it would eventually break it; however, it is not so clear if it is locked with a fingerprint.
How fingerprint locks scan are subject to court orders
Whether you choose a fingerprint or PIN code (or even both) to protect your phone also depends on who you want to avoid.
If you don’t want a random stranger to pick up your phone at a coffee table and access it, it will work well, and a fingerprint might work better. Either method should keep prying eyes out as you go through the ways of finding your lost or stolen phone.
But if you’re concerned about government access to your phone, you might want to reconsider. US judges generally believe that giving up a PIN or password may be a Fifth Amendment violation, but fingerprints are not.
If your phone is under court scrutiny, a judge may order you to unlock it with your fingerprint. If you want to limit your knowledge of what you’re doing for the NSA and keep the local police department out, locking your smartphone with a PIN is a good idea.
Of course, the laws will differ from country to country, but law enforcement and other government organizations are likely to press for the right to unlock suspects’ phones with a court order, especially if they are placed in a situation similar to what the FBI found.
The best unlocking method for smartphones
For the vast majority of people, a fingerprint will be the safest way. Even with the 10-attempt deletion feature enabled, it is possible but unlikely, that anyone could guess your PIN.
Without the deletion of 10 attempts, your PIN is subject to brute force attacks that will eventually be breached. By comparison, it is impossible to force a raw fingerprint.
Even if you decide to have a PIN, it is highly unlikely that you will have an attack. Breaking a PIN code can be long, arduous and expensive, and many hackers may not bother you unless you are a high profile citizen. That way, while fingerprints are more secure, there’s nothing wrong with using a PIN code.
If, however, you are in the United States and are concerned about the government entering your smartphone, you may want to use a PIN. If you are an activist, journalist, or anyone else who may have contact information or confidential communications on your phone, the law will be on your side if a law enforcement member asks you to unblock it.
Fingerprints Scan Lock versus PIN codes Lock: it’s up to you
Fingerprints and PIN codes have their advantages and disadvantages. While printing is the safest method for your phone, it does not mean that PIN codes are the smartphone’s equivalence to unlocking the front door. Both are solid choices, and it comes down to what you want from your phone to decide which one is best for you.
If you use an Android and decide to stick with the fingerprint, here are Top 10 Fingerprint Lock App ForAndroid Phones.