RSA Laboratories

Exploring implicit memory for painless password recovery

Citation: T. Denning, K. D. Bowers, M. van Dijk, and A. Juels. Exploring implicit memory for painless password recovery. CHI '11

Abstract: Knowledge-based authentication systems generally rely upon users' explicit recollection of passwords, facts, or personal preferences. These systems impose a cognitive burden that often results in forgotten secrets or secrets with poor entropy. We propose an authentication system that instead draws on implicit memory - that is, the unconscious encoding and usage of information. In such a system, a user is initially presented with images of common objects in a casual familiarization task. When the user later authenticates, she is asked to perform a task involving a set of degraded images, some of which are based upon the images in the familiarization task. The prior exposure to those images influences the user's responses in the task, thereby eliciting authentication information. We ran a user study to investigate the plausibility of our system design. Our results suggest that implicit memory has potential as a basis for low-cognitive-overhead, high-stability, knowledge-based authentication.

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