Maybe your phone’s password should be a doodle

People who used gesture passwords spent 22 percent less time logging in and 42 percent less time creating passwords, on average. (Credit: Rutgers)

Free-form gestures or doodles could be the next big thing in passwords. They’re faster, safer, and easier to remember compared to conventional log-in methods for mobile devices, new research shows.

“Preventing people from hacking into your smartphone is a major issue, and it becomes even more important because people carry their smartphones everywhere,” says Janne Lindqvist, study coauthor and an assistant professor in electrical and computer engineering at Rutgers University.

“Getting access to somebody’s phone can give a lot of information about that person and make them vulnerable to lots of different kinds of attacks that can have financial and other repercussions.”

Previous work by other researchers found that text passwords and PINs were hard to use, easy to compromise, and unsuitable for mobile devices. Their shortcomings include limited password space, susceptibility to “shoulder surfing,” and slow entry, according to Lindqvist.

Doodle vs. text

The recent study explored how 91 people used free-form gesture passwords in their daily lives. The researchers installed software on their Android smartphones and the participants created 347 text passwords and 345 gesture passwords. They completed 2,002 log-in tasks involving eight virtual accounts in their smartphones.

Each participant was asked to create and recall passwords for two different sets of accounts created for the study. The first set contained two virtual accounts: online banking and social network. The second set included six accounts: email, online gaming, online dating, shopping, online course, and music streaming.

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The results showed that the participants preferred shapes (49.28 percent) and letters (24.07 percent) for their gesture passwords versus lines (15.76 percent). Participants also preferred single-finger gestures (93.62 percent) over multi-finger ones.

Participants who used gesture passwords spent 22 percent less time logging in and 42 percent less time creating passwords, on average.

Free-form gestures could be expanded to laptops and tablet/laptop combos with touch screens—even doors with touch screens instead of key locks or swipe cards. They also could expand to access services over the internet, according to Lindqvist.

“If you get access to a typical smartphone, that can reveal their whole social network,” says Lindqvist,. “People take photos with them. They might be just completely innocent photos of their family, but they might still not want them in the public. People do online banking with them.”

Yulong Yang, a doctoral candidate who developed the software for the study and is its lead student author, adds: “If you have access to others’ phones, you can pretend to be them and impersonate them.”

Last year, more than 70 percent of American adults owned a smartphone, up from 35 percent in 2011, according to the nonprofit Pew Research Center.

The peer-reviewed Rutgers study will be formally published in May at the Association for Computing Machinery’s Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, also known as CHI 2016, in San Jose, California. Study coauthors include Gradeigh D. Clark, a Rutgers graduate student, and Antti Oulasvirta of Aalto University in Finland.

Source: Rutgers University