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Emoji Passcodes, PINs, and Passwords

Emoji passcodes?   That’s what Intelligent Environments thinks is the next step in getting access to your bank accounts.  The idea is straightforward – we have an entirely new character set that everyone is already using on their phones, why not allow them as passcode input instead of just numbers?

Here’s the technology in action direct from the inventors:

Sounds promising, right?  Being able to punch in a little emoji passcode on your phone to get bank access?  It’s got all sorts of potential.  But I must admit I don’t understand the original problem.  Are people really logging into their bank accounts from their phones with only a 4-digit PIN?  That’s ridiculously unsecure.  What about using the alphabet?  What about a regular good password?

Still, adding emoji to the set of characters that we can use to authenticate ourselves using something from memory is a decent idea.  I would much rather type in a little picture story to get into accounts than type a pile of gibberish encoded from a past event or goal.   I think emoji passcodes and emoji passwords could catch on.

The BBC notes:

Former memory champion Michael Tipper told the BBC the technique for remembering a sequence of either numbers or pictures was essentially the same.
“Fundamentally we are hard-wired to remember pictures,” he said.

“However, people are lazy and they will adopt the easiest way through.

“Statistically it will be harder to crack – but if you’re presented with a screen of emojis and you can’t be bothered to remember a sequence you’re going to pick the ones in the four corners or the top row – and then you are left with an equally insecure technology.”

Mr Tipper argued that human behaviour could be a major flaw in the idea.

“I think what needs to happen is more rigour in terms of testing the behavioural aspect of this.”

What an excellent point!  The emoji passcode-accepting website will have to guard against the equivalent of “password” “monkey” and “123456.”

And why not mix the emoji icons with a-z, A-Z, 0-9, and the special characters for passwords?  That would be super cool.  How do you enter them from a desktop computer, though?

(By the way, Gizmodo got their headline wrong, or perhaps just premature, when they said this technology was for emoji passwords.  This idea is for 4-digit PINs, not passwords.  At least for now.  But they got the story details right.)

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