Microsoft trials inkblot passwords

Microsoft researchers are trialling a system that uses inkblots as an aid to creating and remembering passwords.

Microsoft trials inkblot passwords

The system generates inkblots, similar to those used in psychological tests, to stimulate an image in the users’ mind, such as a frog or a dragon. The user then enters the first and last letter of the image they see for 10 different images, which the site then uses to create a new 20 character password.

Each time the user visits the site on which the password was created they are reminded of their password through the inkblots, though researchers say the passwords are quickly remembered once the images have been viewed a few times.

“I thought people wouldn’t remember what they had seen in the blots. My first reaction was, ‘oh, come on,’ but it turned out well,” says Dan Simon, a researcher with Microsoft.

“When we first explained the task to the users in the studies, the users were almost uniformly incredulous. Even after using the inkblot passwords, they were amazed that such an unconventional scheme actually works.”

There are around 1,000 inkblots in the database, leading to millions of possible password combinations which are easy to memorise but difficult for others to crack, according to the researchers behind the site.

Microsoft plans to marry the system to the OpenID protocol, which is intended to create a single online sign-on for users, usable across all sites.

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