Google Glass, iPhones aid passcode thieves

Gergely Antal | Moment Mobile | Getty Images

An obscured screen may not be enough to keep prying eyes from stealing your passcode.

Wired reported that researchers out of the University of Massachusetts Lowell have written software that allows video capturing devices, including Google Glass and Samsung's smartwatch, to recognize four-digit PIN codes typed onto an iPad from far away—even when the screen is unreadable. The software, according to Wired, uses a "custom-coded video recognition algorithm that tracks the shadows from finger taps," and thus does not need to see images on a device's display.

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"I think of this as a kind of alert about Google Glass, smartwatches, all these devices," Xinwen Fu, one of the researchers behind the program, told Wired. "If someone can take a video of you typing on the screen, you lose everything."

While Fu told Wired that Google Glass was an obvious choice for the experiment given its constant eye-level position, it hardly proved the most adept at utilizing the software. From three meters away, the publication wrote, Glass had an 83 percent accuracy rate of passcode recognition, but the iPhone 5 worked every time from that distance. The researchers also found that a $700 Panasonic camcorder could catch a passocde from a screen 44 meters away, Wired reported.

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Google defended its product's reputation in a statement to Wired. "Unfortunately, stealing passwords by watching people as they type them…is nothing new," a company spokesman wrote. "We designed Glass with privacy in mind. The fact that Glass is worn above the eyes and the screen lights up whenever it's activated clearly signals it's in use and makes it a fairly lousy surveillance device."