The current generation of high-end smartphone cameras offers sensor resolutions that only a few years ago would have been reserved for digital SLRs. However, not only the main camera modules offer higher megapixel counts, the same is true for the front cameras that are typically used for video chats and self-portraits.
While more megapixels mean more image detail for mobile photographers they also pose a risk to your privacy as researchers from the Technical University Berlin and Telekom Innovation Laboratories have found. The front cameras in some smartphones are now powerful enough to capture detailed images of screen reflections in the eyes or glasses of smartphone users, allowing intruders to view the content of displays.
For the study scientists used the Oppo N1 smartphone with its tiltable 13MP camera. By using a customized app they were able to access the camera remotely and capture the screen reflection in the eyes of the viewers. The results were even better with users wearing glasses, allowing for the recording of key entries that were made on the touchscreen, for example when entering passwords or other personal information.
By controlling the rear camera of a device the research team was even able to capture finger print information of smartphone users which could be used to bypass biometric controls. The complete results of the study will be presented in August at the Workshop on Offensive Technologies (WOOT) in San Diego.
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