Pingrid: password security based on pattern recognition

Pingrid is a password system that aims to increase your online security by changing your password every time by having you enter a pattern on a grid.

Michelle Starr Science editor
Michelle Starr is CNET's science editor, and she hopes to get you as enthralled with the wonders of the universe as she is. When she's not daydreaming about flying through space, she's daydreaming about bats.
Michelle Starr
2 min read

Pingrid is a password system that aims to increase your online security by changing your password every time; instead, you enter a pattern on a grid.

(Credit: Winfrasoft)

When it comes to authentication, the password system is not necessarily the strongest one. According to a company called Winfrasoft, however, the password system could be tweaked so that a different password would be used each time a user logs into any one service, saving users the hassle of remembering a different password for every service they use.

Presenting at CeBIT, Germany, Winfrasoft managing director Steven Hope said, "The problem of passwords is that they are very weak, they are always getting hacked, and also from a user point of view, they are too complicated, everybody has 20, 30, 60 passwords. They all have to be different, no one can remember them, so everybody writes them down or resets them every time they log in. They don't work in the real world today."

The solution Winfrasoft has devised isn't as cryptic to use as it sounds. Instead, Pingrid — as it is called — is based on a pattern. Instead of simply logging in the user is presented with a six-by-six grid split into four smaller three-by-three grids, each of which is filled with the numerals one to nine. The grid is randomly regenerated every minute, so it will rarely appear the same twice,

The sequence of numbers required to log in is instead determined by a pattern on the grid pre-set by the user. The user selects a sequence of squares; each time the user logs in, the numbers in those squares, in the correct sequence, makes up the password — a system that, Winfrasoft believes, could seriously stymie anyone trying to hack into an account.

"There is no way anybody could see which numbers you are looking at," Hope said. "You see typing numbers but you don't know what the pattern is because each number is here six times."

The Pingrid app is currently available for Android, BlackBerry, iOS, Windows PC and Windows Mobile, but there is one serious difficulty in using it: in order for it to work effectively, web services will need to start integrating the system into their log-in pages; and many have already opted for the SMS-based two-factor authentication. Pingrid, therefore, is unlikely to take off.

In that, it can join all the attempts at recreating CAPTCHA. And those attempts to redesign the keyboard.