Securing smartphones with picture codes

PINoptic says it has new software that will help make smartphones more secure by associating pictures with pass codes instead of numbers.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
2 min read

A company called PINoptic says it has a new picture-based security mechanism to make smartphones more secure.

The company claims that its new software will make a smartphone 37 times more secure than using a simple four-digit personal identification number.

As smartphones become increasingly popular, experts warn they could be targets for hackers. These devices provide access to corporate networks, e-mail accounts, and sometimes corporate data. Stolen smartphones can also provide criminals with plenty of information to steal personal identities. And because they're made to be portable, smartphones can be lifted easily from pockets or purses or even left behind in taxi cabs or some other place people might travel.

Currently, the most popular way to secure a smartphone is using a four-digit PIN. But all hackers have to do is watch someone punch in their PIN to learn the pattern.


PINoptics software allows users to set a pass code using images rather than numbers. The images are randomly placed on different numbers or letters each time someone logs in. Users push the correct image sequence to get access to the device, rather than the same number pattern. This makes it more difficult for anyone watching a user log in to figure out the PIN simply by watching which keys are pressed.

In fact, PINoptic claims that a hacker would have to watch someone enter their login at least 10 times before being able to crack the code.

Several banks and credit card companies have also beefed up security to their Web sites by using pictures as a way to verify identity. Some Web sites require users to click on an image after they've signed in with a username and password to authenticate access.