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Picture Password: A Visual Login Technique for Mobile Devices



Wayne Jansen, Serban I. Gavrila, Vladimir Korolev, Richard P. Ayers, Ryan Swanstrom


Adequate user authentication is a persistent problem, particularly with handheld devices, which tend to be highly personal and at the fringes of an organization's influence. Yet, these devices are being used increasingly in corporate settings where they pose a security risk, not only by containing sensitive information, but also by providing the means to access such information over wireless network interfaces. User authentication is the first line of defense against a lost or stolen PDA. However, motivating users to enable simple PIN or password mechanisms and periodically update their authentication information is a constant struggle. This paper describes a means to authenticate a user to a PDA using a visual login technique called Picture Password. The underlying rationale is that a method for login based on visual image selection is an easy and natural way for users to authenticate, removing the most serious barriers to users' compliance with corporate policy. While the technique was designed specifically for handheld devices, it is also suitable for notebooks, workstations, and other computational devices.
NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR) - 7030
Report Number


authentication, handheld devices, mobile devices, PDA, Personal Digital Assistant, visual login


Jansen, W. , Gavrila, S. , Korolev, V. , Ayers, R. and Swanstrom, R. (2003), Picture Password: A Visual Login Technique for Mobile Devices, NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online], (Accessed May 28, 2024)


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Created July 1, 2003, Updated November 10, 2018