If you have an Apple or Android phone and you probably do-you have got the option of locking your mobile phone through a PIN code with 10,000 possible combinations. A study claim people are terrible at making unique PINs that we don't benefit from the fact a six-digit PIN has so many more possible combinations.
In a statement, researchers say that there are common PINs that lots of people use, which causes the difference between four digits and six to be negligible.
Though a six-digit PIN needs to be extra secure, researchers say people are so predictable with how we choose our PINs.
Philipp Markert, a researcher at the Horst Görtz Institute for IT Security at Ruhr-Universität Bochum, told Inverse that there are common PINs that lots of people use.
"Mathematically speaking, there is a huge difference, of course," Markert said. While users prefer certain combinations, he said some PINs are used more frequently, such as 123456 and 654321.
The researchers compiled a list of the most typically used PINs. It may seem odd when reading, but the study claim things make sense when you see 2580 on your phone, which is popular because it starts at two and then goes through down the middle of the phone. Obviously, 0852 is the opposite of that.
The most popular four-digit PINs are: 0000; 0852; 1111; 1212; 1234; 1998; 2222; 2580; 5555; and 5683.
On the other hand, the ten most popular six-digit PINs are: 000000; 111111; 112233; 121212; 123123; 123456, 159753; 654321; 666666; and 789456.
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Aren't PINs "safe" enough?
The researchers observed most PINs are safe enough because phones typically lock after some of the wrong guesses. However, their study claims six-digit PINs do not provide more security than four-digit ones.
Markert explained that four-digit PIN could be used to create 10,000 different combinations. In contrast, a six-digit PIN can be used to create one million.
Hence, the users don't usually take advantage of the full potential of the six-digit codes. "It seems that users currently do not understand intuitively what it is that makes a six-digit PIN secure," supposes Markus Dürmuth.
However, in case your PIN is one of the ones above, or your PIN is your birthday, and the person seeking to free up your cellphone is aware of you, then there's a good risk they may get in.
iPhone would usually warn you when you have selected a commonly used PIN because Apple blacklisted 274 widely used codes. Still, it doesn't prevent you from using the PIN. The researchers argue the blacklist must encompass round 1,000 combinations.
There are ways to lock your phone securely, though
The researchers additionally found that PIN codes are substantially more safe than locking your cellphone with a sample lock. Phone security experts usually recommend smart ways to lock your phone. Still, you need the numbers to be random, so they will be adamant about guessing.
You may not be worried about a person unlocking your cellphone. Still, in case you lose it, it'll be a lot less stressful for a stranger to get into your phone in case your PIN is easy to guess, and there's no telling what they might do with what they find on there. It also makes it much easier for them to sell the cellphone.