Skip to content Skip to footer

A Software Firm Launches the World’s First Emoji-Based Password Security System

Smiley face. Pizza. OMG. Random dragon. Sounds like a transcript of a conversation between two teenagers on Facebook, doesn’t it? But if one software company convinces banks to sign up to its new release, this could very well end up to be your new online banking password.

British digital banking software creator Intelligent Environments have created the first password system that grants users access to their accounts after entering in a four-string series of emojis, the  small pictures seen in places such as Facebook messenger and the Apple iPhone, depicting everything from emotions and facial expressions to food, animals and the weather.


Word of the Year

First originating in Japan, where the word comes from the Japanese names for “picture” and “character”, emojis  have become a prevalent part of Western culture in recent years, with the Oxford Dictionary even going so far as to name (Face With Tears of Joy), it’s ‘Word’ of the Year.’

Though the move no doubt stirred some controversy[1], it was at least a clear sign of how much this new form of communication had become a part of everyday life, especially among younger audiences.

So it came as little surprise when brands and organisations began looking at ways they could incorporate emojis into their arsenal in an effort to appeal to young audiences.

Finding Practical Uses for Emojis

Yet whilst most of those brands looked at fun, creative ways to incorporate them, such as Dominos scheme of simply tweeting a pizza emoji to brand’s Twitter account to place an order), few seem to have gone quite so far in exploring emojis’ practical benefits as Intelligent Environments.

Having developed a number of fintech products in the past, the company, based in Kingston upon Thames, London, are now looking at financial service providers to integrate their emoji passcode system into their core banking software; apps and platforms which provide the fundamental services of a retail bank such as processing transactions, checking balances, and making deposits.

Addressing Issues

By now, nobody could blame you for having scrolled up to the top of this article to check the date, but no, you’re not reading an old April Fools story. Intelligent Environments are deadly serious about their new release, even if it does come with a few issues.

For one thing, there’s compatibility. Though emojis are commonplace on the keyboards of most smartphones released in the last few years, older models don’t support the ability to send them, even if they do support the mobile banking apps themselves.

The company have worked around this in the simplest way possible: Rather than entering passwords using their smartphone keyboard, users will use their device’s touch-screen technology to select icons presented by their app.

Complimenting Current Systems

Still, this doesn’t quite solve the problem that -despite all the buzz- not everybody is a fan of emojis[2], particularly those still upset over one being named Word of the Year, and would rather use anything other than a slice of pizza and a random smiley face to deal with something as important as their bank account.

Again, Intelligent Environments have got it covered, insisting that -if and when banks do sign up- emoji passcodes will only compliment -rather than replace- current security systems.

Besides, the idea does have its benefits.

Heightened Security

Despite many warnings to the contrary, scores of people continually use easy-to-hack passwords like “letmein’ and even ‘123456’ and ‘‘Password’’ simply because they’re much easier to remember than a random series of upper-and-lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.  The Emoji passcodes present a solution to that, relying on what’s known as the Picture Superiority Effect[3]; the idea that the human brain finds it much easier to remember pictures and images than it does words.

With this approach, the company is confident that users will be able to remember their passwords whilst at the same time increasing security, noting that the 44 available emojis in the passcode system present a far larger number of potential combinations than a typical four-digit numerical passcode.

Having thought of seemingly everything, the brand’s only challenge now is to convince financial service providers to integrate the system into their core banking software, and to convince the rest of us that no, this really isn’t a belated April Fools.

MISYS2-EMOJIKEYBOARD (Wikimedia Commons) 

MISYS2-MISYS2-SMARTPHONEPW (Flickr user Ervins Strauhmanis)