Research Shows Windows Image Password Too Simple to Crack

Users should try to avoid obvious photos and to use difficult visual puzzles

For those who are considering the switch from the typed log-in system of passwords to the newer and more fancy picture password: the idea may not be a good one. At least that is was a paper published from researchers at Arizona State University and Delaware State University are suggesting, after finding it may be a little too easy to crack.

Microsoft’s Picture Gesture Authentication system, which allows one to draw three gestures on any image with your finger in order to gain access as a password is under a bit of criticism. Images can be drawn on and are utilized as a sort of visual puzzle available to those who want to forgo the usual attempts to remember a password.

The problem seems to be that the gestures cannot be applied freely. The OS automatically converts squiggles into a tap, circle, or a line. That negates a large portion of the creativity available to users. Researchers who used a custom web-based system similar to the Windows version found it was too easy to discern which parts of a photo were most likely picked by users for the past.

While quizzing 685 respondents, the project found that 9.8% randomly chose to draw without considering the image. A 60.3% majority admitted they looked for “special object” location, while 22.1% used pictures with special shapes. The final 8.3% utilized colors that were different from surroundings.

The researchers did note that it was not as if any old novice snoop could figure out the pictures. That said, it was still clearly too easy for their liking. A couple of ideas to maximize the security were avoiding the use of family photos and perhaps using Magic Eye images or other difficult-to-discern images.

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