London - Passwords could be replaced by unique hand-drawn lines to improve security, experts say.

Free-form shapes, created by sweeping fingers across the screen of a smartphone or tablet, are harder to reproduce than traditional typed passwords or “connect the dots” grid sequences, research has shown.

Scientists at Rutgers University, New Jersey, found the gestures gave greater protection against so-called “shoulder surfers” who try to sneak a look at someone’s password to copy it.

Seven computer science students were asked to steal a free-form gesture by looking over someone’s shoulder, but none could replicate the shapes with sufficient accuracy.

Researchers also asked 63 volunteers to create their own screen gesture and remember it ten days later. The results were “favourable” to using the shapes as passwords, the researchers said.

Study co-author Professor Janne Lindqvist, an expert in electrical and computer engineering, added: “With all the personal and transactional information we have on our phones today, improved mobile security is becoming critical.” - Daily Mail