We are constantly told that passwords are useful as they are help to protect our most sensitive personal information. Admittedly, that’s true; but just ask the average user about passwords and it’s guaranteed that they’ll complain about how tedious it is to create long and complex login credentials for all those accounts. And if that’s not enough, there is the issue of actually memorizing those passwords that, let’s face it, is downright impossible without the help of the right tools like a password manager. So, it’s not surprising that people are looking for alternatives whenever possible, whether that’s biometric authentication, a pattern or anything but a password.
However, a few years ago a new contender, the emoji password, appeared with the hopes of changing what we think of a password today. Now the question is: do emoji passcodes have the potential to replace their regular counterparts and finally put an end to the forced use of those annoying complex passwords?
Why Is 🙂 Better Than $m1LeY?
Even though there are many techniques that we can implement in order to come up with strong passwords, humans will never be capable of storing them in their minds as efficiently as a computer. Emojis, on the other hand, are a visual medium and since the human brain is the best at memorizing images we are more likely to remember a funny face better than a string of random characters or numbers.
So it was logical to implement emojis into creating passwords then, as was done in 2015 by Intelligent Environments, a British software development company. To test how well people would react to emoji passwords, the company created an experimental app called Emoji Passcode that asked test subjects to create a four-digit passcode comprising of four emojis selected from a set of 44 smileys. And the results – that were later confirmed in research conducted by the developers of EmojiAuth as well – are more than promising.
Emoji Passcode in Action
For starters, emoji passwords are way harder to hack when compared to PIN codes. If we take Emoji Passcode’s set of 44 smileys then almost 3.5 million permutations of non-repeating emojis can be created, whereas the number of unique permutations of four non-repeating numbers is only 7,300. In addition to that, emoji passcodes are less prone to the dreaded shoulder surfing. And if that’s not enough, people participating in both researches reported that they had more fun with emoji passcodes and experienced fewer problems with memorizing their new passwords – which is something regular passwords will never be able to replicate.
Why Aren’t We Using This Already?
It’s clear that the emoji password is the perfect candidate for replacing its traditional counterpart and it is destined to be a great hit with the teenage demographic.
Sadly, however, emoji passwords are only used by certain third-party apps that replace the original lock screen of mobile devices and a handful of websites like Quora, Slack, and Twitter and automatically transforms the right set of characters into actual emojis. And since many security experts, including Per Thorsheim, consider emoji passwords nothing more than a fad – while also admitting that it’s still better than using the weakest of passcodes – chances are that this type of authentication method will not be as widespread as it’s hoped to be.
However, if we think back to the introduction of the iPhone – which was also ridiculed by most major mobile phone manufacturers – it’s easy to think that emoji passwords may end up on the same level as special authentication methods like voice passwords, facial IDs or fingerprints.
Combining Traditional Passwords With Emojis
Emoji passwords in their current state are virtually useless since they aren’t widely accepted, however that doesn’t mean they cannot be used to create strong and memorable passwords.
If you think about it, everyone owning a device with a physical or virtual keyboard can create primitive smileys comprised of special characters. Those characters are considered to be the aces in the deck when it comes to strong passwords, as passwords with special characters provide protection against the most common dictionary attacks. Even if that login is simple, if it contains even a single emoticon alongside letters and numbers, then not only is it easier to remember but it becomes virtually unbreakable for hackers, too.
And to top it all, creating such a password is not impossible, especially if password generators are used, which are more than capable for arranging special characters to appear as emojis… 😉
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