An empirical study of touch-based authentication methods on smartwatches


The emergence of smartwatches poses new challenges to information security. Although there are mature touch-based authentication methods for smartphones, the effectiveness of using these methods on smartwatches is still unclear. We conducted a user study (n=16) to evaluate how authentication methods (PIN and Pattern), UIs (Square and Circular), and display sizes (38mm and 42mm) affect authentication accuracy, speed, and security. Circular UIs are tailored to smartwatches with fewer UI elements. Results show that 1) PIN is more accurate and secure than Pattern; 2) Pattern is much faster than PIN; 3) Square UIs are more secure but less accurate than Circular UIs; 4) display size does not affect accuracy or speed, but security; 5) Square PIN is the most secure method of all. The study also reveals a security concern that participants’ favorite method is not the best in any of the measures. We finally discuss implications for future touch-based smartwatch authentication design.

Proceedings of the 2017 ACM International Symposium on Wearable Computers (Equal contribution)
Yue Zhao

Machine Learning System and Information Systems Researcher.