Could emojis be the key to the next step in online security?

July 2, 2015
3 min read

Trying to remember the combination of numbers and letters chosen as a password across various platforms is a challenge many of us face regularly. However, recently companies have been looking to make this challenge slightly easier – as well as more secure. A UK banking startup has announced that using emoji pass codes in place of digital passwords would be almost 500 times more secure, as well as being easier for people to remember.

The online banking service provider Intelligent Environments has created a system that will allow customers to log into their accounts using a pass code containing four emoji characters. The platform provides a total of 44 emojis to choose from. With a traditional PIN there are 10,000 possible combinations, but with this system there are 3.8 million potential combinations.

According to Intelligent Environments, the  Emoji Passcode plays to humans’ extraordinary ability to remember pictures, anchored in evolutionary history. We remember more information when it’s in pictorial form, hence why the Emoji Passcode is claimed to be better than traditional PINs.

Smiley faces: The answer to online security worries?

Brits are concerned about the security of their online interactions, especially when it comes to their finances. According to Mintel’s Digital Trends Spring UK 2015 report, 86% of UK consumers say that they are concerned about their financial data being hacked or stolen online.

In order to quell fears, we’ve seen a number of new innovations hit the finance market: Square is introducing a new card reader for EMV cards that are embedded with chips for greater security while MasterCard has developed a new system for verifying purchases made while users are travelling using their phone’s GPS.

Intelligent Environments is positioning the Emoji Passcode as one way to improve the issue of online safety. But at the same time, the start-up is claiming that emojis are also easier for people to remember – something that is sure to appeal to people looking for shortcuts wherever they can find them.

Safety, security and convenience are all key concerns for today’s consumers. Brands and businesses would do well to address these issues with transparency and creativity in order to set minds at ease.

Catherine Cottney, Trends Manager Europe at Mintel, works at the forefront of detecting trends, innovations and consumer behaviour from across the globe and manages a team of contributors in the Asia-Pacific region. She has provided analysis on topical issues and events from a Trends perspective for a number of media outlets and publications including BBC Radio 4ʼs Today programme, the Financial Times and Women & Home.

Catherine Cottney
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