Don't take Shoulder Surfing lightely

When someone stands behind your back and stares at the screen of your smartphone or even records it, it's called Shoulder Surfing. In the best case this is unpleasant and in the worst case with serious consequences - because Shoulder Surfers not only see private messages on your device, but also business correspondence and passwords.

A real story

A true story that could have started with Shoulder Surfing. On your daily train journey to work you check your mails. Someone must have observed you entering your password. On the same day your computer is locked and your data is gone - private and business. With horror you realize that your last backup was months ago. But this is just the beginning. Shortly after, the police knock your door. Money was transferred from your account to a criminal organization. The police examine your computer and find child pornographic material that the perpetrator has stored in a hidden file. A bad suspicion arises.

The visit of the police does not remain hidden from the neighbours. Rumours that you're a paedophile spread like wildfire. The neighbours are outraged, you get insulted in internet forums, the bank blocks your accounts, your employer suspends you and your children are being bullied at school. The press is pestering you and your friends go on the run. Out of desperation you move and try to build yourself a new life overseas - but there you are known already.

You'd like to think it's too far-fetched. Unfortunately, these events are based on a true story you can read in the book “Tatort www”.

The consequences of Shoulder Surfing are underestimated

Shoulder Surfing concerns everyone who uses their electronic device in public. The dangers are massively underestimated:

  1. Access to another computer requires special technical know-how and appropriate instruments without knowledge of the password. Shoulder Surfing is the easiest way to obtain passwords. This makes subsequent attacks much more convenient. Such methods affect business people and private individuals alike.
  2. Who observes a person purposefully while emailing and chatting, in a short time can learn a lot about their characteristics and preferences. Observers take advantage of this. With the acquired knowledge they try to gain the trust of their target - not always with good intentions. Of course, there are different ways to collect knowledge about people, especially via social media. Therefore, those who deliberately do not reveal too much about themselves on Facebook and Co. should protect themselves all the more from uninvited Shoulder Surfers.
  3. Plain curiosity. This may not be dangerous, but it is bothersome and unpleasant.

You don't have to stand with your back to the wall

Good advice such as "no confidential transactions in public places" is known but not taken to heart. Why should we limit ourselves if there are simple alternatives?

One strategy is to turn away and align the smartphone's display so that no one can see it. In public transport this can be cumbersome and might seem a little paranoid. If you don't want to stand out and with your back to the wall at all times, then privacy screen covers are the right choice. This means that only those who are directly in front of the display can see it. Insight is no longer possible from an angle of 30° or higher. This corresponds to the angle when someone tries to get a peek over your shoulders. Nobody wants to change habits, so a simple technical measure poses the best alternative.