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Cellphones Handhelds Security

Motorola Uses NFC To Enable Touch-to-Unlock For Smartphones 87

Posted by timothy
from the press-here-to-continue dept.
colinneagle writes "A lot of people don't password-protect their smartphones, and even those who do employ a simple four-digit passcode to at least keep it a little convenient. Their phones aren't really protected, as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recommends a 12-character random password. Those who check smartphones 50 times a day would probably get tired of that. So Motorola developed the Skip, an NFC-based unlocking tool smartphone users can clip to their clothes. Tapping an NFC-enabled phone to the Skip unlocks it. The Skip also comes in sticker form, so users can install one in their cars or at their desks." That's why the muggers want your jacket, too.
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Motorola Uses NFC To Enable Touch-to-Unlock For Smartphones

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  • by Nerdfest (867930) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @04:09PM (#44646871)

    That's a good idea. I think I'll do the same thing with an NFC tag and Tasker. You could also just use any old expired card with an NFC chip in it in your pocket. When I finally get my Pebble watch, I'm planning on having the lock disabled when they're connected to each other.

    • Re:Clever (Score:5, Interesting)

      by PhrostyMcByte (589271) <phrosty@gmail.com> on Thursday August 22, 2013 @04:40PM (#44647189) Homepage
      It'd be really clever if someone made it into a ring [nfcring.com].
      • by PopeRatzo (965947)

        It would be more clever if someone made it into an edible piece of candy.

        Think of it: A jar full of individually-wrapped Lemonheads sitting on your dresser. They can be "charged" and will work to unlock your device for one day (or one hour), after which they are useless. Can be dissolved in water or swallowed and completely digested.

        Personally, I like complex gestures better. It's not that hard to learn to draw a figure that is completely unique to your hand and is extremely hard to forge (especially si

      • Re:Clever (Score:5, Funny)

        by Areyoukiddingme (1289470) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @05:51PM (#44648147)

        Damn damn damn. You had to paste that link 3 days after the Kickstarter ended, didn't you. If only I'd known. That's what I've been wanting ever since I heard about NFC.

        Now I have to wait around until they're selling them, and fork over the extra 6 pounds.

    • by wile_e8 (958263)
      I've thought about the same thing, but doesn't the phone need to be unlocked for NFC to work? (at least on Android, which is what I'm assuming you're talking about since you mention Tasker). I've seen some mods to get around this, but they never worked on my GNex.
      • I've thought about the same thing, but doesn't the phone need to be unlocked for NFC to work? (at least on Android, which is what I'm assuming you're talking about since you mention Tasker). I've seen some mods to get around this, but they never worked on my GNex.

        I would be happy if there were options of:
        "If I see this WiFi network ....., then don't require a password to unlock the phone (also turn volume up)" for at home
        "If I see this WiFi network ....., then don't require a password to unlock the phone (also turn volume off)" for at work

    • Re:Clever (Score:5, Informative)

      by Stealth Dave (189726) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @05:01PM (#44647439) Homepage

      I agree, it is a good idea, and I did [xda-developers.com].

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Assuming unlimited password tries, 4 characters is enough. I use pattern lock on my phone and it times out indefinitely after 5 failed attempts, requiring a Google Account Username/Password verified online. 12 digits would only be required for real security if there were no timeout.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I wouldn't mind the Skip plus four characters. Multi-factor authentication, so if the phone is stolen, the really long code is required.

      I do this already -- you can split up the screen locker password from the password that unlocks the /data partition, so when the phone first boots, it will ask for the long password, then from there on out, one uses the fairly short screen locker PIN, and too many guesses will cause it to time out.

      It isn't bulletproof, but good enough. I wouldn't mind having a NFC key as

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Should read "limited password tries" not unlimited. There's always time to proofread after I submit it, right?

    • To confirm - power-down reboot doesn't clear the lock on your phone? If that's accurate, that's cool. Can I ask which phone and OS you're running?
  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @04:09PM (#44646879)

    Tapping an NFC-enabled phone to the Skip unlocks it. The Skip also comes in sticker form, so users can install one in their cars or at their desks.

    Or stick it to the back of the phone. :-)

  • Something you have, something you are, something you know.

    Seems like this involves 2 "something you have"s. Added alongside facial recognition, and it'd be fairly secure. But by itself....

    • Facial recognition is painfully insecure and can be easily broken with a portrait photograph of the person you're trying to impersonate. It's security theater for the kool-aid drinkers.
      • by geekoid (135745)

        It's in its infancy, and not kool aid.
        That said, the vast majority of unexpected phone access come from people leaving their phone someplace. What are the odds that the person who finds it ALSO has a picture of you?

        Security isn't about absolutes, it's about layers, risk, percentages and time.

        The issue you bring up have been solved in high end racial recognition tools.
        Eventually the phone.

      • by Beorytis (1014777)

        On the bright side though, the muggers won't beat your face up (at least not until they unlock the phone).

  • by lord_rob the only on (859100) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (3003avihs)> on Thursday August 22, 2013 @04:13PM (#44646919)

    Actually that means that thieves have to steal two objects (that NFC thing added to your phone) instead of one (your phone alone).
    Harder for thieves maybe, but the harder it becomes for them, the more violent towards you they can become. I don't think it's a very wise idea ...

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Actually, the hard it gets the less crime there is. You don't really need to raise that bar very far.

      • I guess the point the OP was making is that the remaining crime may become more violent. But I agree that a lot of opportunistic crime would essentially disappear.

    • by swillden (191260)

      Actually that means that thieves have to steal two objects (that NFC thing added to your phone) instead of one (your phone alone). Harder for thieves maybe, but the harder it becomes for them, the more violent towards you they can become. I don't think it's a very wise idea ...

      It's always amusing to see the lengths to which some slashdotters will go to criticize an idea.

      • The role of of the comments is to stimulate debates. There are no debates without people for and against a concept.

        • by swillden (191260)

          The role of of the comments is to stimulate debates. There are no debates without people for and against a concept.

          If I had more time, I'd invent some bizarre and ridiculous counterargument.

  • > smartphone users can clip to their clothes.

    Seems inconvenient. Can they build it so I can clip it to my smartphone?

    • by barlevg (2111272)
      What do you use as the NFC key? Only NFC device I can think of in my possession is, well, another phone.
      • any NFC tag ... they're available online for less than a buck apiece.
      • by geekoid (135745)

        It will pair with any NFC key. So if you are using one for something else you could use that. You could get one of those NFC rings.
        Maybe an old CC card?

  • by Laxori666 (748529) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @05:02PM (#44647467) Homepage
    New tech startup called Snowshoe [snowshoestamp.com] has an interesting take on this. Basically it's a fingerprint that already works on all existing touchscreens. Doesn't require any battery power. I saw their 5-minute pitch from the latest TechStars, seemed interesting!
    • by hibji (966961)

      Why would would it be more convenient? The snowshoe stamp requires the screen to be on. The stamp itself doesn't require battery power, but neither does an nfc chip. The stamp is also huge in comparison to an nfc.

  • by wisnoskij (1206448) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @05:11PM (#44647617) Homepage

    Why would you ever need so many. Only allow fives tries a minute, after the twentieth try go into deep lock-down mode and only allow some admin password to unlock. There three digit password is good enough now.

    • by hsmith (818216)
      Because, the "twentith lockdown mode" is useless. Image the phone and you can have as many tries as you want.
  • by GumphMaster (772693) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @06:03PM (#44648281)

    Those who check smartphones 50 times a day would probably get tired of that.

    Further aiding and abetting their addiction is probably not a good idea.

  • The part most folks are missing that while you could do this on certain custom roms, almost every phone maker has the NFC sensor turned off unless the device is unlocked. While I use tasker and NFC quite a lot, I can't make it do this without installing a custom rom that enables the NFC. Now the flip side is that if the device is processing NFC when locked, that means someone can bump into you and have your phone activate website URLs or trigger things like google wallet depending on your settings.
  • That's why the phone is great, just a swipe with your finger on the fingerprint sensor. I've no idea why they get rid of this idea.

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