Considering our smartphones are now essentially extensions of ourselves, storing our meaningful conversations, pictures, and important personal details, it’s no wonder that we want them to be as secure as possible. Right now our options range from the basic number or letter passcode, through structured patterns, to the most secure option of a fingerprint sensor. The thing is, not every phone has a fingerprint sensor and when it comes to structured patterns, pins, and text passwords there are length limits, limited variations and combinations, not to mention the fact that they’re pretty easy to peek at and copy.
In attempt to create a password system that’s easy to remember, hard to guess, and quick to use on touchscreens, Rutgers University have done a study into the use of doodle password entry. Freeform gesture passwords will allow you to draw a password of any shape with any number of fingers and the team behind them say they’re a “serious alternative” to other log in methods. According to Janne Lindqvist, co-author of the Rutgers study and an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the School of Engineering, “Preventing people from hacking into your smartphone is a major issue, and it becomes even more important because people carry their smartphones everywhere.” Lindqvist thinks it’s important that we have the most secure password method possible as having the wrong person access our phone could leave us “vulnerable to lots of different kinds of attacks that can have financial and other repercussions.”
As part of their research the Rutgers team tested their doodle passwords on 91 people, exploring how they used the passwords in their daily lives. The researchers installed software on their Android smartphones and the participants created 347 text passwords and 345 gesture passwords, completing 2,002 log-in tasks that involved eight virtual accounts.
The results of the study showed that the 49% of the participants preferred drawing shapes over letters and lines and that 93% of them liked drawing their password with a single finger over multiple fingers. One of the most interesting things they discovered was that participants who used gesture passwords actually spent 22% less time logging into accounts and 42% less time creating passwords because of the reduced limitations.
Though they only tested the passwords on touchscreen smartphones, the team thinks the tech could be expanded to be used on laptops with touchscreen capabilities, or maybe even as a way to unlock doors if key locks and swipe cards were replaced with touch screens to draw on. It’s an interesting idea, though I’m not certain I could be as consistent with drawing freeform shapes as I would be at remembering a structured pattern or pin code but I’d be willing to give it a try.