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Windows 8 has got a new feature that allows you to login to your computer using a 4-digit PIN code:

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  1. Over the years we've been taught that we should always protect our accounts with secure passwords that consist of both lower- and uppercase letters and digits and have a length of at least 7-10 characters. The new PIN policy contradicts with this idea.

  2. If we're actually able to set a 4-digit password (and in Windows 8 we are), how is that different from the PIN-code? In my opinion, the PIN actually tells the intruder "hey, the owner only used a 4-digit password, so use the alphabet of 0-9 for your brute-force attack, it will be much faster".

  3. To have a more convenient way to sign in, we can also set a 3-, or even a 2-digit password, which is not possible for a PIN code.

So what is the exact purpose of the feature, if it's definitely less secure and not more convenient than the good old password?

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closed as not constructive by soandos, Diogo, ChrisF, Journeyman Geek, KronoS Oct 29 '12 at 14:18

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

If you've enabled it, could you see if it "locks-out" after a certain number of wrong attempts? And what happens in that situation - does it revert to password only, or just a timed lock? – Graham Wager Oct 29 '12 at 11:34
Yes, I've just tried it and it asks for a password after 5 wrong attempts. This is also true for a picture password (described in the article provided by @Root) – Vladimir Sinenko Oct 29 '12 at 11:35
That's good, not as bad for brute force at least :) thanks for that! – Graham Wager Oct 29 '12 at 11:38
PINs also cannot be used remotely, i.e. to access network shares. – fefrei Aug 1 '15 at 19:33
up vote 3 down vote accepted

When you use a tablet, the PIN password pops up the numeric keyboard instead of the full-sized keyboard which makes it easier to type the password. It is similar to the Simple Password feature in iOS.

Quote from Building Windows 8 blog:

In a world with increasingly strict password requirements—with numbers, symbols, and capitalization—it can take upwards of 30 seconds to enter a long, complex password on a touch keyboard.

Other touch experiences in the marketplace have tried to tackle this problem, with the canonical example being a numeric PIN. A PIN is a great solution: Almost everyone has seen or used one before, and a keypad is simple to use with touch. We knew though, that there was room to improve.

Also, a 4-digit PIN (which has 10 independent possibilities each) has 10,000 unique combinations.

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So what is the exact purpose of the feature, if it's definitely less secure and not more convenient than the good old password?

Its a method to allow the user to implement a password, to avoid the casual user from viewing the contents of their tablet, just like iOS has implement similar features.

If you lose the device then you run into the fact a bruce force attack would have been sucessful eventually no matter WHAT your password was. Clearly its not as secure as a normal password, but secure enough, which is fine for 90% of the cases somebody would turn this feature on.

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