Mar, 14 2012

While I think we’d all agree that pattern unlock isn’t the most desirable method for locking your phone down if you need the absolute highest degree of security, it appears that it has foiled someone. That someone happens to be the FBI. A pimp named Dante Dears was asked to turn in a cellphone that he once admitted never existed. The FBI, eager to find information that could help take him down, found that he’d locked his phone using pattern unlock, a method to unlock an Android phone using a pattern drawn on a 3×3 grid.

Normally, they’d be able to search through his phone then and there due to a waiver he signed which would give up his fourth amendment right as part of his parole term, but since the device was locked (which was apparently a violation of the waiver) they needed to obtain a warrant.

They did so, shipped the phone off to the FBI and intended to get to work… only to find it impossible to get inside the phone. They tried different combinations on the pattern unlock screen 20 times before they were hit with the infamous password prompt. The FBI has sent a subpoena to Google to get access to Dears’ Google account to obtain the following:

  • The subscriber’s name, address, Social Security number, account login and password
  • “All e-mail and personal contact list information on file for cellular telephone”
  • The times and duration of every webpage visited
  • All text messages sent and received from the phone, including photo and video messages
  • Any e-mail addresses or instant messenger accounts used on the phone
  • “Verbal and/or written instructions for overriding the ‘pattern lock’ installed on the” phone
  • All search terms, Internet history, and GPS data that Google has stored for the phone

We’re sure a few of these things won’t be found within his account, but I guess it doesn’t hurt to be thorough. This article isn’t intended to highlight the case, but Android’s use of security that even has law enforcement agents left scratching their heads.

I suddenly feel the urge to set one up myself even though I have nothing embarrassing or incriminating on my phone. Has Android’s pattern unlock been successful for you when absolutely needed? [Ars Technica]