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Researchers Create Screen Protection System to Fend Off Shoulder Surfers

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The center phone screen is equipped with Eye-Shield; the others are not.

The researchers said the use of Eye-Shield reduces shoulder surfers' ability to decipher content on a device by about 60%.

Credit: Computer Science and Engineering, University of Michigan

Most of us use our phones in public without worry, but accessing private information when out and about can be a risky undertaking. Increasingly, thieves are resorting to a relatively simple means of stealing data from unknowing strangers: shoulder surfing.

From public transit to waiting rooms to elevators and beyond, shoulder surfers exploit physical proximity in crowded places to view device screens and obtain potentially sensitive data, such as passwords, PINs, financial information, and more, simply by peering over your shoulder. In one recent high-profile case, a man in the UK had £22,000 stolen after a shoulder surfing incident.

In response to this threat, researchers at the University of Michigan have developed Eye-Shield, an innovative screen protection system that obscures images and text on your phone and other devices when viewed from a distance. Eye-Shield was designed by Brian Tang, doctoral candidate in computer science and engineering, and Kevin and Nancy O'Connor Professor of Computer Science Kang G. Shin.

"The key question we are trying to answer in this project," said Tang, "is how we can improve on existing technologies to protect users' information while browsing the web, watching videos, or doing virtually any activity on their phones, tablets, or laptops."


From Computer Science and Engineering, University of Michigan

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