August 19, 2015

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Emoji Passwords: a New Way To Secure Your Information

As a professional in the identity protection space, I know all about the importance of using strong passwords and changing them frequently. Effective password strategies help lock down everything from mobile devices to banking accounts, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to keep track of them all the time.

Since effective passwords should have a combination of letters, numbers and symbols, I’m not the only one who has difficulty. A recent survey found that 59% of people reuse passwords because it’s too hard to remember them, and more than half agree that they need to change their password habits.

If you’re like me, you’re always looking for better ways to remember passwords. Lately, I’ve been depending on a password manager app, which means I only need to remember one. Basically, you unlock the app with a single, robust password and then access a list of your other passwords.

This can be handy, especially if you’re using increasingly complex combinations, but there’s another potential memory saver on the horizon: emojis. Could a combination of chicken wing images, hearts and smiley faces reduce the need for other passwords?

What is an Emoji?

Emojis are small digital images used to express ideas or emotions. Started in Japan, the word translates to “picture character,” and they’re used worldwide in text messages and on social media. The cute, tiny images now incorporate a huge range of subjects, including food, animals, natural elements and hand gestures.

How to Use Emoji Passwords

Although the technology isn’t yet available, it’s likely that emoji-based passwords will start becoming more widespread. Recently, an online banking provider in the U.K. announced that it was unveiling an emoji-only passcode that allows users to choose from 44 emojis, including many already familiar to mobile users. For example, you can still choose a smiley face wearing sunglasses or a mug of beer.

The banking firm believes that using emojis makes sense, because pictures tend to be more easily recalled than numbers, and there are far more permutations of emoji combinations over traditional four-digit passcodes.

Also, younger people are already using the images so frequently that it’s a natural transition. In research, the bank that is launching the emojis passcode found that 64 percent of millennials regularly communicate using only emoji.

Security experts are debating whether the image-based passwords will be truly effective, but the issue does highlight the growing problem of password management, especially as devices, and the need for multiple passwords, proliferate.

Personally, I use emojis all the time, and it’s easier for me to remember a series of images compared to a combination of random numbers and symbols, so I’m ready for emojis to become a top way for how to remember passwords.

Until then, however, I’ll keep using these sure what I choose doesn’t end up on next year’s list of the worst passwords.

Image courtesy of Flickr user The All-Nite Images.

Melanie Medina

Sr. Director of Digital Marketing at IdentityForce
Melanie is a native of Bolivia who has lived in Boston for over 10 years. She likes to make time to travel, jog, read, and play backgammon. Fueled by copious amounts of coffee, Melanie stays on top of her to-do list while also keeping abreast of identity theft issues. Serious data breaches are happening all the time in the U.S. and Melanie loves being part of a solution that brings peace of mind to families across the country.