Emoji Could Replace Digits In Passcode


A company has launched a system for logging into online banks using emoji rather than digits. But there’s no word of a major bank taking up the idea.

Intelligent Environments works in online and mobile financial services in the UK. Among its products is a financial services ‘platform’ that includes login systems.

The company has included an Emoji passcode option in its Android app, which allows users to set and use a passcode with a selection of four emoji characters from a list of 48 options.

It argues that this offers two improvements. Firstly, it says that people find it easier to remember visual images rather than numbers. It could certainly be possible to remember four emoji as a sequence: for example, from the available selection “broken heart”, “hamburger”, “beer”, “smile” could be easy to remember as a story.

Secondly, it says that if you bar repeating two digits or characters consecutively, a numerical passcode offers 7,290 unique combinations (10x9x9x9), while the emoji system offers 3,498,308 (44x43x43x43.)

It’s not quite clear why the firm based the calculations on not repeating digits, something that is allowed in most numerical passcodes. It could be that this allowed it to come up with a greater proportional difference between the two: it highlights the emoji as offering 480 times as many combinations, whereas it would be just under 350 times as many if you allowed repeated digits. (44x44x44x44 compared with 10x10x10x10.)

One potential limitation is that the benefits might only apply with a four-character passcode. That would leave it only suitable for a phone banking app, which requires at least three security measures: the phone’s own lock screen, the passcode to run the app, and the app either having limited functionality or an external security tool such as a card reader to allow payments and transfers.

The emoji system likely wouldn’t work on elements of online banking that require longer security inputs such as a 10 or 12 character password. The average sequence people can easily remember is only seven items¬†which is why many people picking passwords use one or more words: if you know a word, you don’t need to actively memorize it as a sequence of individual letters.

While it might be possible to form a mental ‘story’ using emoji, trying to remember a sequence of 10 or 12 would seem challenging.

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