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Emoji passcodes are the PIN replacements we both want and need

Emoji passcodes are the PIN replacements we both want and need

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If you think the headline to this story overstates the case, then just remember that the most common passwords on the web are "123456," "password," and — just to show a little bit of imagination — "12345678." No matter how much some of us worry over how to create memorable but secure passphrases, the majority of internet users just don't care. That's why one company thinks it's time to replace four digit PINs with a language everyone loves: emoji.

44 emoji mean 3.5 million unique combinations

Intelligent Environments, a UK firm that makes digital banking software, has created what it's calling the "world’s first emoji-only passcode," offering a choice of 44 emoji that can be used to create a four-character PIN. The company says this means there are 3,498,308 possible permutations for non-repeating emoji passcodes, compared to just 7,290 for traditional non-repeating PIN.

Forcing people to use emoji instead of numbers would also stop them choosing PINs based on memorable events — birthdays and weddings for example — that might be easily guessed. Tony Buzan, a noted memory expert quoted by the company, adds that the idea "plays to humans’ extraordinary ability to remember pictures, which is anchored in our evolutionary history."

It's a clever idea, certainly, but don't get too excited yet: it's not the first PIN replacement we've seen, and implementing these ideas is always far more difficult than just coming up with them. Intelligent Environments' press release is also little too heavy on the hyperbole (it claims that "64 percent of millennials regularly communicate only using emojis" — really? Only using emoji?) and a little too light on actual industry support.

Intelligent Environments' managing director David Webber told BBC News that the company hadn't patented the idea, meaning any bank that wants to introduce emoji PIN codes can do so. Although, there's always the chance that security wouldn't be increased as everyone picked what is objectively the best emoji passcode ever: four smiling poops.

Update June 15th, 12:15PM ET: Updated to clarify that the number of possible PIN and emoji passcodes was calculated based on non-repeating numbers and emoji.