Saving Face

Alphanumeric passwords? Not when you can click on a photo of Aunt Edna

5:42 PM -- Are you one of those people who finds it easier to remember a picture than a password? Read on: There's good news on the horizon.

A recent study by researchers at Carleton University tested users' mettle at recalling and using graphical passwords. The good news is that these click-based passwords -- where users pre-select and then click a set of five points in a graphical element such as a photo of a parking-lot full of cars -- were relatively easy to use. Some users picked cars in the lot photo that looked like those they had driven, or ones they wanted to drive, for instance. (See Picture Your Password.)

Now Passfaces, which sells an authentication technology that's based on human faces, not text, is about to offer its technology for free, according to Paul Barrett, Passfaces's chairman and chief executive officer. Barrett says the idea is to make the company's facial-recognition authentication scheme more fun and user-friendly. Rather than having to use mugs from Passfaces's bank of shiny happy faces, you can use three of your own personal photos as your passface/password.

"You can drag or drop your family photos to become your Passfaces," he says of the Passfaces Personal offering.

It's basically the opposite of how Passfaces's current products work. "When a user chooses passwords, they usually choose something easy to guess... That's why we allocate faces to the user," Barrett says.

"In some ways, we're taking away the security and giving it [Passface Personal] to people so they can play with it," he says.

Why the, uh, about-face? Barrett says Passfaces wants to take its facial-recognition password technology straight to potential users to get them acquainted with it.

Later this year, Passfaces will also offer an upgrade that lets you safely use your Passface as a login on Websites, rather than having to compose and memorize multiple text-based passwords.

— Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor, Dark Reading

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    Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer, Dark Reading
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