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Shoulder surfing

Shoulder surfing definition

Shoulder surfing is the practice of physically observing the victim’s device from a close distance, typically over their shoulder. Shoulder surfers try to glean valuable information from your screen, observe keystrokes as you’re typing your password, and listen to your communications. Shoulder surfing is a type of social engineering.

Real shoulder surfing examples

  • Watching over the victim’s shoulder as they enter their credit card PIN at an ATM.
  • Sitting on a park bench behind the victim to listen to a confidential phone call.
  • Observing the victim’s device through binoculars from a neighboring house.

Stopping shoulder surfing

  • Cover the keypad when typing out passwords, PINs, or other sensitive information. Stand close to your device to prevent others from peeking around you or shield the keys with your hand.
  • Check your surroundings before using your device in public. Make sure no one is in a position to spy over your shoulder and, if possible, position yourself with your back to a wall.
  • Don’t surf in crowded spaces like public transportation. It’s very difficult to protect your device from every angle in such circumstances.
  • Use a good password manager like NordPass to avoid typing your credentials. NordPass will generate strong passwords and safely fill them in for you with a click or a tap.