Why drawings could soon replace passwords

25th Oct 2007 | 23:00

Why drawings could soon replace passwords

"Draw a Secret" technology could replace PINs

If you're one of those people who struggles to remember all your passwords, you might soon be able to draw a picture instead. It might sound strange, but a new system has been developed which remembers the unique way individuals draw certain pictures.

So instead of using a password to protect your mobile phone, you could soon be drawing a rudimentary picture of a cat.

Graphical passwords

Today, the use of passwords is commonplace in everything from mobile phones to cash machines and computers. But in the wake of growing concerns about traditional 'weak' passwords created from words and numbers, Newcastle University computer scientists have been developing alternative software which lets the user draw a picture password, known as a 'graphical password'.

"Many people find it difficult to remember a password so choose words that are easy to remember and therefore more susceptible to hackers," explained computer scientist Jeff Yan, a lecturer at Newcastle University.

Along with his PhD student Paul Dunphy, Dr Yan has taken the emerging Draw a Secret (DAS) technology, a graphical password scheme where users draw their secret password as a free-form image on a grid, a step further.

Those who can't type, draw

In DAS, the user draws an image, which is then encoded as an ordered sequence of cells. The software recalls the strokes, along with the number of times the pen is lifted.

By superimposing a background over the blank DAS grid, the Newcastle University researchers have created a system called BDAS: Background Draw a Secret. This helps users remember where they began the drawing they are using as a password and also leads to graphical passwords that are less predictable, longer and more complex.

Those who took part in testing this system created passwords that were a thousand times more secure than ordinary textual passwords. Most testers also found them easy to remember.

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