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Shoulder Surfing

Last updated on January 29, 2023

The corporate environment, restaurants, bars as well as smart office spaces, pose a number of security threats. That’s why few measures are required to prevent data breaches and identity theft, unauthorized access to devices, and more. One such risk is shoulder surfing.

Continue reading to learn more.

What is shoulder surfing?

Shoulder surfing is a social engineering technique that is conducted by observing what someone is doing by looking over their shoulders. As a shoulder surfer (with malicious intent), it’s relatively easy to watch someone fill out a form, use an ATM or pay using a credit card when they are in a crowded place since it’s fairly easy to stand next to them. Shoulder surfing can also happen electronically, as attackers try to steal sensitive information from mobile devices. To prevent shoulder surfing, it is best practice to use a privacy screen protector on your electronic device and to be aware of your surroundings when inputting sensitive information.

Although it may seem like a relatively harmless crime, shoulder surfing can have devastating consequences like identity theft, financial loss, and even a complete financial wipeout.

Examples of shoulder surfing attack

There are several ways that shoulder surfers can gain access to sensitive information. One way is through direct observation, where they simply try to look over someone’s shoulder while they are inputting their data. Another way is through recording devices, where they set up hidden cameras in order to record people inputting their information. Additionally, they may try to access someone’s electronic device when they are not using it in order to input their own data.

Here are a few other examples of shoulder surfing:

● Using a cellphone to pay a bill or make a purchase in a public place. You can be overheard by someone eavesdropping on your conversation if you read your credit card or other sensitive data aloud.

● Spending money or submitting a password while sitting next to someone at a coffee shop. Confidential data can easily be obtained by someone sitting nearby.

● In addition, hackers can intercept sensitive information if a person makes use of a public WiFi network without using a VPN.

● The computer is publicly visible, so anyone can see what benefits an employee receives. Social security numbers and contact information are accessible that way.

Tips to prevent shoulder surfing

It has become much easier to shoulder surf because of technological advancement. Digital cameras are widely available, allowing shoulder surfers to spy from afar. Your business will avoid becoming a victim of shoulder surfers by using best practices to keep your corporate and employee information secure.

You can prevent shoulder surfing by following these tips:

1. Install a privacy filter

Using privacy filters, only those directly behind the screen will be able to see the screen. They are sheets of polarized plastic. You can apply privacy filters to your mobile device. Many privacy filters are available for desktop computers as well as laptops.

2. Maintain awareness of your surroundings

Make sure you have a private place to conduct your business away from the public. Work with your back to a wall so that others are not looking over your shoulder while you are working. Avoid verbally divulging your PIN or communication password in public places.

3. Use a password manager

Some online websites and apps permit you to create a strong password. Furthermore, your password can be saved online. You do not need to enter your password anywhere you access something. Plus you can also go for two-factor authentication.

4. Protect PINs

Only a few people take their financial institution’s advice seriously about covering the keypad when entering a PIN. Keeping your steady hand on the PIN pad as you enter your PIN will prevent shoulder surfing from occurring. If you feel your PIN has been noticed, change it.

5. Avoid using public networks

Wifi connections that are provided for free in public spaces, such as hotels and cafes, are often poorly configured and susceptible to hacking. As most public wifi networks are encrypted, hackers can potentially get confidential and personal data, such as credit card numbers, banking information, and passwords, once the network has been breached.


Shoulder surfing is a form of social engineering that involves criminals peering over one’s shoulder to gain access to confidential data. It is important to be aware of your surroundings and who is around you when entering sensitive information in order to protect yourself from this type of attack. By understanding the basics of shoulder surfing and taking the necessary steps for prevention, individuals can better protect themselves from this type of data theft.

If you think you have been a victim of shoulder surfing, there are several things you can do. First, you should check your credit reports for any suspicious activity. If you see anything that you do not recognize, you should report it to the credit bureau. Additionally, you should change your passwords for all of your accounts and monitor your accounts for any unusual activity. If you see anything suspicious, you should report it to your financial institution.

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