Uncovering Shoulder Surfing: Unveiling Its Impact on Cyber Security Identity Theft
By Tom Seest
At BestCybersecurityNews, we help entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, young learners, and seniors learn more about cybersecurity.
Shoulder surfing may seem like an innocent act, but its effects are far-reaching. An attacker observing someone entering their account information into public areas such as an internet cafe can launch such an attack by watching their screen and keyboard as they type.
For example, if you’re working from your laptop in a coffee shop and decide to access your bank app using public Wi-Fi, shoulder surfers may see and write down the login credentials.
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Shoulder surfing is an increasingly prevalent form of identity theft that takes place when criminals observe you entering sensitive data on your smartphone or tablet. They could use various techniques to steal passwords and responses to security questions, use your information to open credit card accounts in your name and apply for payday loans using this data in your name – they often target public places where people share personal or confidential data such as airports, restaurants, hotels, and train stations as prime spots to target.
Criminals could observe your mobile devices on public transportation such as trains, buses, airports, or restaurants with visible screens or listen in on phone conversations that they overhear from others. They might hack unsecured Wi-Fi networks to intercept private details like OTP codes, passwords, or bank account info – using tiny cameras for closer viewing of PIN keystrokes or credit card numbers when you use ATMs; binoculars and high-powered listening devices could even allow them to spy from afar and overhear conversations from a distance!
Criminals can gain access to your passwords and personal data by listening in on conversations on mobile devices while entering information into them. This often happens when people pay bills, log in to payment applications or chat apps in public spaces, read OTP codes aloud for banking accounts or social media profiles, and make a note of them out loud – giving criminals ample opportunity to eavesdrop and glean whatever details may be pertinent to their scheme.
Shoulder surfers can gain access to your name, date of birth, home address, and phone number through any method possible. They have access to your emails, online bank accounts and social media accounts, credit card and banking details, passwords, OTP codes, and any other sensitive data stored there. They could access fingerprint and facial recognition data stored on your phone to bypass password protection altogether; scammers even harvest two-factor authentication codes from SMS text messages as well as read responses to security questions! Because of these risks, it is wise never to log in directly using public computers while always using password managers that encrypt and store these credentials securely.
Criminals scout people’s device screens and keypads for personal data that they can use for account takeover or identity theft, as well as valuable insights from chat apps or email conversations.
Visual hacking techniques don’t require special tools or skills; all it takes to use them effectively is standing or sitting near someone who enters PINs or other sensitive data into their mobile phone – something common in busy places like airports, coffee shops, and public transportation.
Criminals gaining access to both screen and keyboard can quickly memorize what is being typed, observe fingerprints or hand movements of victims who use password or PIN entry methods, as well as gain further clues from fingerprints or hand movements that give away how these are entered into systems. More advanced attackers could potentially eavesdrop on conversations while pretending they are helping another victim, playing a game, stretching, or helping with another task at the same time.
Shoulder surfing is an effective attack method that doesn’t require special tools and can be completed quickly. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to prove whether any crime was actually committed as the victim can simply move on to another victim without leaving any trace behind.
Thieves can gain access to the personal information of victims by taking control of their phones or watching as they enter a PIN into an ATM, and using this information against them by making calls using their victim’s number and making false complaints that there are issues with their account – this can cause additional financial damages and medical fraud as they use their victim’s social security number for fraudulent applications such as health insurance or loans.
Victims can protect their devices by using privacy screen protectors or making sure to lock their devices before leaving a place; gestural password entry allows users to type passwords without alerting potential attackers, and selecting seating arrangements where their back is against a wall will make it more difficult for someone with criminal intentions to peek over your shoulder.
Shoulder surfing can have devastating repercussions for individuals. Criminals engaging in this low-tech crime target those in public spaces or professional working environments where it’s easy for criminals to blend in and catch glimpses of screens being displayed by others. They use binoculars, mobile phone video cameras, or their ears to collect sensitive data in this way.
Shoulder surfing involves watching as someone types in their password on their laptop or phone in public places like coffee shops and airports. Criminals then can note the credentials used and use them later to hack into someone’s account.
Once they gain access to an individual’s login credentials, an attacker can use them to gain access to other accounts – from online banking and payment apps to identity theft, credit card fraud, and other crimes committed under their name.
According to Javelin Strategy & Research’s 2022 Identity Fraud Study, traditional identity fraud losses cost Americans $24 billion last year alone.
Shoulder surfers can be avoided with some preventive steps. When checking confidential accounts, don’t do it in public places like cafes and offices – rather do this activity at home and without anyone witnessing.
Another step you can take to protect your device and data is switching over from passwords to biometric authentication, making it harder for criminals to gain entry. This could involve facial recognition or fingerprint scanning.
Utilize a privacy screen on your laptop or phone screen to make reading it from far away more difficult by reducing viewing angles with this transparent cover that reduces viewing angles, making it harder for anyone across the room to see what’s on it. In addition, consider turning 2-factor authentication (2FA) on for any accounts that offer it to lock out attackers even with only your login and password details; they would require accessing additional code before being granted entry.
Shoulder surfing is a low-tech crime frequently perpetrated in public spaces. Criminals may use binoculars, cell phone cameras, or simply their own eyes to gather the necessary data for shoulder surfing attacks on finances and/or listen in on your personal communications to gain entry to bank accounts or social media accounts of potential targets – then use this information to purchase goods using their identities, withdraw money from accounts or conduct other transactions using this stolen identity.
Criminals may use various means, from physical surveillance over their victim’s shoulder, observing as they enter their password or PIN into their account, to witnessing this type of attack in public places such as airports, cafes, or any crowded areas. An attacker only needs one chance to steal your personal data!
Are You at an Airport While Waiting For a Delayed Flight? Let’s say your delayed flight has left you waiting a bit too long while indulging in life administration activities like paying some bills online. But your attention was distracted by free Wi-Fi, and you forgot to shield your computer screen from onlookers; an unfamiliar face just a few seats away now watches you enter your credit card and other sensitive data into it!
No matter the method, when an attacker uses your personal information for fraudulent purchases or new account openings in your name, the consequences can be far-reaching and devastating to your credit history. You could find yourself struggling to meet monthly payments or even losing your home as a result.
Criminals’ access to your personal data can cause not only financial costs but also emotional strain and reputational damage. A criminal could gain entry to your professional email account and access confidential documents or social media posts that contain personal information that would allow them to harass and threaten you.
Shoulder surfing can be avoided by not displaying sensitive data publicly on either your computer or mobile device and using an automated password manager application that logs you in automatically. This method reduces the chance that someone could gain access to that password via shoulder surfing attacks.
Please share this post with your friends, family, or business associates who may encounter cybersecurity attacks.