6

On Android Lollipop, even with a PIN-enabled lock screen, it is possible to:

  1. Turn on/off Flight mode
  2. Turn on/off Location
  3. Turn on/off WiFi, Bluetooth, Mobile Data
  4. See all available WiFi and Bluetooth connections
  5. Enable/Disable Hotspot
  6. Turn on/off the torch
  7. Turn on/off phone sounds, and/or all interruptions.
    etc, from the Quick Settings pull-down menu.

I can think of so many security risks this poses that I cannot justify that the reason for having this is purely for user convenience.

What is the rationale behind this design?

  • "I can think of so many security risks this poses" - can you share some of those? – Aidan Hall Oct 23 '15 at 18:47
  • 4
    @AidanHall: To name a few - Incentive for Theft: Making stolen phones immediately untraceable by turning on Flight Mode and turning off Location; Vandalism: Turning off sounds and interruptions to cause one to miss calls, meetings and alarms; Misuse: Use of one's internet via Hotspot if the attack comes from a known source; Direct attack/hack: possibly by uploading a trojan/virus via Bluetooth using a previously paired device(?) to create a backdoor. I'm no hacker, so there are possibly bigger risks I'm unable to sense! – SNag Oct 23 '15 at 18:55
  • Cheers - all interesting points. I wonder how useful acting on these would be. A thief will turn the phone off anyway. Vandalism - true but the work around is to getter nicer friends ; ) Hotspot - good call, but only an idiot would have hotspot set up without the security (I just put the security back on for mine whoops); that one should require the PIN to activate. Bluetooth hack - that's a good one; though if an attacker is willing to get a physical device that you have paired with and compromise it for an attack they will have access to much scarier ways to get you. – Aidan Hall Oct 23 '15 at 19:19
  • I don't think it is too much of a security concern because if the hacker/thief has direct access to the device then there are likely much easier ways then toggling the few exposed settings to set up for a different kind of attack (bluetooth, etc.) It seems the small risk of an attack like that was weighed against the convenience for many and the convenience won. Although I do think they should make it optional in settings, seems trivial and would help people who do worry about it. – DasBeasto Oct 23 '15 at 20:13
  • Hi SNag - FWIW none of those concerns seem like concerns to me. – Fattie Oct 23 '15 at 20:50
4

You will note that all of the items that are accessible from in front of the lock screen are interactions with the hardware. They are also hardware interactions that commonly take place whilst the user is busy using his or her hands for something else.

What isn't in front of the security lock is the user's data. Even the network related items are focussed around turning on and off the hardware. No where does the OS allow access to actuall user data or functionality that has a cost associated with it without that access being secured if the user has setup a lock.

  • Data can be compromised too because Android allows notifications with full content such as SMS and messenger app pings to be consumed from the lock screen, though this is optional. – SNag Oct 23 '15 at 18:32
  • 2
    My question was more around "why isn't a lock screen a lock screen"? Even revealing hardware switches on a security locked screen has implications, such as making stolen phones immediately untraceable. As a user, I'd want to lock the hell out of my phone. I'm probably asking for a lock on the lock screen. – SNag Oct 23 '15 at 18:36
  • Hi SNag, I think the answer is simply pretty much "oh, you don't need to worry, actually those are all items where there's no security concern." – Fattie Oct 23 '15 at 20:51
3

My initial reaction to this is that it's 100% for convenience.

If you're in a dark room looking for something it's great to be able to quickly turn on the light without needing to authenticate one way or another.

If you're late for a flight, you rush to get on the plane & sit down, it's great to be able to quickly put it in airplane mode without needing to authenticate.

You can do almost the exact same actions on iOS as well by default, but there is an option to disable these from the lock screen if desired. I'm not sure if Android has this or not, but I would assume so.

I do see the security implications that you mentioned, but I think these are not a concern for most people (however it should be something to think about!). If you are security conscious & it's possible in the OS it would be a good idea to disallow these features from being accessed on the lock screen.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.