A Human-Cognitive Perspective of Users’ Password Choices in Recognition-Based Graphical Authentication

Katsini, Christina, Fidas, Christos, Belk, Marios orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-6200-0178, Samaras, George and Avouris, Nikolaos (2019) A Human-Cognitive Perspective of Users’ Password Choices in Recognition-Based Graphical Authentication. International Journal of Human–Computer Interaction, 35 (19). pp. 1800-1812. ISSN 1044-7318

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1080/10447318.2019.1574057


Graphical password composition is an important part of graphical user authentication which affects the strength of the chosen password. Considering that graphical authentication is associated with visual search, perception, and information retrieval, in this paper we report on an eye-tracking study (N = 109) that aimed to investigate the effects of users’ cognitive styles toward the strength of the created passwords and shed light into whether and how the visual strategy of the users during graphical password composition is associated with the passwords’ strength. For doing so, we adopted Witkin’s Field Dependence-Independence theory, which underpins individual differences in visual information and cognitive processing, as graphical password composition tasks are associated with visual search. The analysis revealed that users with different cognitive processing characteristics followed different patterns of visual behavior during password composition which affected the strength of the created passwords. The findings underpin the need of considering human-cognitive characteristics as a design factor in graphical password schemes. The paper concludes by discussing implications for improving recognition-based graphical passwords through adaptation and personalization techniques based on individual cognitive characteristics.

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