It turns out that Rorschach-style ink blots, the well-known images used in psychological testing, may provide an aide to enhance computer security. Technology giant Microsoft has launched a new tool using the ink blots to create personalised passwords for any website supporting the Open ID identity authentication platform.
Open ID is a system used by a number of technology providers that allows someone to create and use just one online identity across many different sites.
The technology of Microsoft's new site, www.inkblotpassword.com, has the potential to be commercialised, but at this stage is being used only as a research toy.
More than 10,000 people have signed up to the site after Microsoft launched it nearly a month ago.
The site uses a series of 20 Rorschach-style ink blots to prompt the user into associating particular words with images. The responses are recorded, with two letters from each image stored to produce a password that is, according to Microsoft's scientists, easier to remember than any other password.
Dan Simson, a senior researcher in the distributed systems and security group at Microsoft, began the project in 2004. Mr Simson said research on Rorschach ink blots had already shown people associated a number of different things with any one image and the resulting association can be recalled with high precision over time.
Microsoft Systems and Networking Research group researcher Jeremy Elson said Microsoft was conducting the research to find out if the passwords created by people using ink blots provided strong security or not.
"Therefore, we're storing people's passwords in a way that allows us to examine them for statistical purposes," Mr Elson said.
"That's why we warn people to treat our service as a research toy, and not to rely on it for anything important. We don't store any personally identifiable information - just the user name and password that the user selects."
To create a password, people must supply a user name to the website after correctly selecting pictures of cats from a mixture of 3 million cat and dog images supplied by pet adoption website Petfinder.com.
Fairfax Business Media
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