A New System Called Facelock Means We Don't Have To Remember Passwords Anymore

Passwords are a trade-off between security and what can easily be remembered.

Simple passwords are easy to recall but simpler to crack.

And complex passwords are hard to hack but difficult to remember.

An alternative based on the psychology of face recognition, and called Facelock, was announced today by a group of UK reseachers in the journal PeerJ.

David Garner of the University of York and colleagues say psychological research has revealed a fundamental difference in the recognition of familiar and unfamiliar faces.

Humans can recognise familiar faces across a wide range of images, even when their image quality is poor.

Familiarity with a particular face determines a person’s ability to identify it across different photographs and as a result a set of faces which are known only to a single individual can be used to create a personalised lock.

Access is then granted to anyone who demonstrates recognition of the faces across images, and denied to anyone who does not.

To register with the system, users nominate a set of faces well known to them but not well known to other people.

The researchers found that it was surprisingly easy to generate faces that have this property. For example, a favourite jazz trombonist or a revered poker player will work. One person’s idol is another’s stranger.

By combining faces from across a user’s domains of familiarity, such as music and sport, the researchers were able to create a set of faces known to that user only. To know all of those faces is then the key to Facelock.

The lock consists of a series of face grids and each grid is constructed so that one face is familiar to the user, while all other faces are unfamiliar.

Authentication is a matter of simply touching the familiar face in each grid.

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