Nearly 80 percent of Americans own a smartphone, and a growing proportion of them use smartphones for internet access, not just when they’re on the go. This leads to people storing considerable amounts of personal and private data on their mobile devices.Often, there is just one layer of security protecting all that data—emails and text messages, social media profiles, bank accounts and credit cards, even other passwords to online services. It’s the password that unlocks the smartphone’s screen. Usually this involves entering a number, or just laying a fingertip on a sensor.Over the past couple of years, my research group, my colleagues and I have designed, created and tested a better way. We call it “user-generated free-form gestures,” which means smartphone owners can draw their own security pattern on the screen. It’s a very simple idea that is surprisingly secure.
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