Squiggly lines: The future of smartphone security?

Squiggly lines: The future of smartphone security?
Credit: Rutgers University

Rutgers researchers put their doodling fingers on new way to secure smartphones

If PINs, passwords and biometrics just aren't making you feel secure about your smartphone contents, researchers at Rutgers University might have a new alternative: free-form gestures.

They've conducted a study of such doodling for smartphone security in the field  (initially with Android phones...sorry iPhone fans) and will formally publish this paper on "Free-Form Gesture Authentication in the Wild" in May. The system, which involved installing software on study participants'phones, enabled users to doodle using any number of fingers.

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Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Assistant Professor Janne Lindqvist says that you can use "all sorts of squiggly lines" to authenticate yourself on touchscreen phones this way. You just might want to avoid making basic circles or triangles, which could become the "password" or "123456" of free-form gestures.

The study showed that participants preferred shapes over lines, and using one finger over multiple fingers. Those who tested gesture passwords spent an average of 22% less time logging in and 42% less time creating passwords than using typical methods of authentication, according to Rutgers.

The free-form gesturing system could be extended to other touchscreen devices, such as laptops, tablets and even doors.

The Rutgers study results will be presented in May at the Association for Computing Machinery's Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in San Jose, California.

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