Shoulder Surfing

What Does Shoulder Surfing Mean?

Shoulder surfing refers to the act of obtaining personal or private information through direct observation. Shoulder surfing involves looking over a person’s shoulder to gather pertinent information while the victim is oblivious. This is especially effective in crowded places where a person uses a computer, smartphone or ATM. If shoulder surfing occurs when there are very few people, the act becomes suspicious very quickly. Binoculars, video cameras and vision-enhancing devices also are used, depending on location and situation.


Techopedia Explains Shoulder Surfing

Because of our data and identity driven society, personal security keys, like username and password combinations, are critical personal and private data safeguards. Unfortunately, technical savvy is not always required for hackers to gain information. The most commonly stolen data through shoulder surfing includes credit card numbers, personal identification numbers (PIN), important personal information (like middle name and birth date used in password recovery) and usernames/passwords. This type of information may be used to login to accounts and steal other information, such as money, in the case of bank accounts.

The following are simple ways to protect yourself from shoulder surfing when entering or accessing personal data on an electronic device:

  • Look for an area where your back is against a wall.
  • Spend more for a screen filter or protector to obscure the visibility of the display.
  • Never give your password or any vital information to anyone.
  • Locate a quiet spot away from the crowd.
  • As much as possible, never open personal accounts in public.

Related Terms

Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…