Magazine article Information Today

An Image of the Future: Graphical Passwords

Magazine article Information Today

An Image of the Future: Graphical Passwords

Article excerpt

I used to remember my passwords. That was back when I only had to keep track of one or two, and they were actual words that had meaning to me. But now that alphanumeric passwords need to be random strings of upper-and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols, I find myself unable to remember the password itself, let alone know to what account it belongs.

Fortunately for me, graphical passwords are being developed. Image-based passwords have been around since 1996, when physicist and entrepreneur Greg Blonder received a patent for this idea: "In a pen-based or touch-screen computer, the password to unlock the machine is a series of touch sensitive invisible sites hidden under a displayed image."

With Blonder-type passwords, a user selects an image and picks certain areas that must be clicked (called click-points) to gain access to the computer. The image must be complex-a city skyline is a good example.

Because users must always click the same spots on the same image, Blonder-type passwords are still susceptible to shoulder surfing-that is, "the process of password theft through surreptitious monitoring."

Researchers at Rutgers University-Camden are working on a graphical password that prevents shoulder surfing. In this case, users selected 10 icons from a pre-set list. They were then presented with a screen that scrambled their icons with 200 others. They had to locate their icons, which formed the corners of a geometric shape, and click inside the shape. …

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