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Is this the death of the password?

Much has been written lately about the demise of the ubiquitous password. Articles appearing all over the web mention new technologies coming into play to eradicate the weakest link in the security chain. Microsoft introduced Windows Hello to allow users the ability to login in with facial recognition or other biometrics; Amazon looked at the potential to use selfies for authentication; major banks announced initiatives to use fingerprint or iris detection for consumers to secure their accounts. Finally, most modern smartphones and tablets use fingerprint recognition or a PIN code for access.

How are passwords still alive?

So what is preventing the final death knell for the password as we know it today? Quite simply, it is technology adoption. Just like the average age of the automobile on the road in the US has gradually crept up, so has the age of technology in use. We just recently scrapped an eight-year-old laptop in our organisation. Not because it stopped working, but because it was just running too slow and could no longer be upgraded. Had a memory upgrade been available for it, at a reasonable cost, it would still be in use.

Sure, there are many of us tech geeks who want to have the latest and greatest devices. My phone and tablet are current generation, but my laptop is five years old. Why? Because it still runs as fast as anything new on the market.

Would I like a new one? Absolutely! But spending $2,000 (£1,400) for a marginal increase in performance seems a bit extravagant. The other part of the equation is that biometric technology has not been quickly adopted by PV manufacturers. There are devices available on the market, but they are certainly nowhere as commonplace as in the tablet and smartphone market; and it is rare to find one in the lower end of the price spectrum. Usage of mobile devices has exploded over the last five years, and 2015 was the first year that tablets sales outstripped traditional computer sales. Just because people buy a tablet, though, doesn’t mean they have sent the desktop or laptop to the recycle bin.

A common experience

Consumers and business users want a common experience. If they use their fingerprint to access their phone, they want a common experience on their computer. Manufacturers would need to ship every laptop and desktop with a biometric technology available as standard, not as an add-on. That way, as older technology is sunset, the ability to eliminate passwords becomes more readily achievable.

Many cloud software vendors have implemented two-factor authentication into their login processes already. Some of the vendors are even offering a discount on the monthly subscription costs. These vendors typically deliver a one-time use PIN code via SMS or email to complete the login process, much like most banking websites do if you are on a non-recognized computer, or have cleared your cookies. This is another way to expedite the demise of the password – either costs savings associated with the use of the technology or the threat of additional costs if a user elects to retain the traditional login method. Much like the threat of charging $2.50 (£1.75) a month to mail a paper statement if you decide not to elect e-delivery.

To get rid of the password and relegate to the same downfall as the floppy disk will require something new, prevalent, easy to use and offer the promise of cost savings and an increase of security. This new technology will need to replace passwords everywhere, as well – not just on a computer login screen or selected websites, so that users can forget the dozens of passwords they are no longer required to recall at a moment’s notice.

Once accomplished, all I will need to remember is where I put my car keys – and parked the car!

Dean Wiech, Managing Director at Tools4ever

Image Credit: Ai825 / Shutterstock