How to Bypass Security on a Cell Phone

By Josh Wepman

Bypassing cell-phone security includes breaking passcodes or resetting the device.
i mobile security image by Christopher Hall from

Cell-phone security is intended to prevent unauthorized use and inadvertent corruption of the phone and other functionality within the cell phone. Early cell phones had little protection against theft, but as cell phones became more popular in the late 1990s, manufacturers began adding simple protections against tampering and casual unauthorized use, such as pass codes. As phones became more complex and resembled computers in both functionality and data storage, consumers called for better forms of security to protect their personal information maintained by the devices. Bypassing modern cell-phone security systems, which often integrate encryption, can be difficult, even for experienced computer-security personnel.

Analyze the type of security measures on the device. Most cell phones come with a standard pass-code-based protection scheme. Make a few educated guesses about possible codes or passwords and try them. On phones that require users to draw a shape on the touchscreen, look for smudge marks that may indicate the pattern required. Some phones do not lock out users after a certain number of incorrect attempts, but as a precaution, try meaningful codes first, like a person's birth date, address number or other default values, as these are common choices for pass-code values. Also, check the phone battery compartment and case for a pass code or hint that the user wrote down.

Remove the battery from the phone and replace after 10 seconds. In some cases, phone settings are temporarily stored in memory and erased when the phone battery is abruptly removed.

Plug the phone into the syncing computer via a USB or serial cable. Many synchronization programs have password-recovery tools for directly connected devices, and some even store the password in a format accessible to the user. Refer to the phone and synchronization program's operation manual for specifics.

Call your cell-phone service provider if you are trying to bypass a locked SIM card. Give the phone's IMEI number, request the SIM card's unlock code and unlock the SIM card. If this does not work, you can purchase a replacement SIM card from your cell-phone provider and simply replace the old SIM card with the new one. The phone should then boot normally and function correctly, though some of your data stored on the SIM card may be inaccessible. SIM cards usually lock after a maximum number of password attempts, and use strong encryption to prevent tampering.