Experts envision graphics-based passwords

Thursday, 9 May 2002, 10:20 AM EST

XY$Z4(NU)T. It is a password only a security expert could love.

Many people have trouble remembering random combinations of letters and symbols. So they jot difficult passwords down near their computer or replace them with far simpler combinations, making their systems vulnerable to attack.

To solve this problem, some researchers are investigating an alternative to text passwords: pictures.

A system developed by Microsoft, for example, uses a single image with a great deal of detail within it -- an anatomical drawing of the bones of the body, perhaps, or a composite of 40 national flags, or a group portrait of 30 presidents. To create a password, the user clicks on a few of the hundreds of locations available on the image. On the anatomical drawing, for instance, the user might click on a jawbone followed by a bone in the wrist, followed by part of the spine.

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