Are Passwords a Thing of the Past?
If there is one thing nearly everyone can agree on, it’s that passwords are the worst. We hate remembering passwords. We hate having to think up different passwords for our different accounts. We hate having to use a lowercase letter, uppercase letter, number, special character… this list goes on. And most importantly, we hate forgetting our passwords and having to go through the whole mess of resetting it. But has all of our complaining finally made a difference— are passwords on their way out? The answer might actually be yes (although it’s probably not our complaining that did the trick).
Why Passwords Are Dying
It might seem insane to think of a world without a single password because we currently use them for nearly everything. But, the reality is that passwords aren’t too great at doing what they are supposed to do—keeping your data safe and private—and the technology industry has been trying to come up with ways to do away with passwords and create more secure options. You’re probably already using some of the alternatives to passwords if you use your fingerprint to unlock your phone or laptop.
See, the problem with passwords is that, as much as we are told otherwise, none of us are the best at keeping up with strong password policies. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t reused at least one password, and unfortunately, many of us reuse a single password for multiple accounts. Many people also use extremely simple passwords, and some even write them down. All of these behaviors are what hackers dream of because it makes it far too easy for them to gain access to one account and then use that password to get into all of our other accounts.
In an effort to create a more secure digital space, experts have experimented with different ways that would make passwords obsolete, and that might be our reality sooner rather than later. Here are the technologies that are fighting to take away passwords’ jobs.
What’s Replacing Passwords?
We’re starting with biometric authentication because it’s a technology that many of us are likely currently using. Biometric authentication is “a security process that relies on the unique biological characteristics of an individual to verify that he is who he says he is.” When many of us think of biometric authentication, we think of advanced retina scanners that the villain uses in a spy movie to protect some top-secret technology. But if you use facial recognition or fingerprint scanning, you’re already using biometric authentication.
The beauty of biometric authentication is its convenience and security. Biometrics are being used for identification because they are unique to each person. We have all been told that our fingerprint is just like a snowflake—completely unique to us. And the ease of unlocking a device with the press of your finger or the turn of your head is refreshing when compared to passwords.
The most common biometric authentication is fingerprint scanning, but there is also finger vein ID, facial recognition, voice identification, and— the spy movie favorite—retina scans and iris recognition. This password-replacing technology is only growing, and we may see it overtake all passwords before long.
As we just mentioned, biometric authentication seems promising and is already widely used, but some technology experts believed biometric authentication could be improved upon to create an even more secure solution. So, they created a solution that combined biometric authentication along with other technologies to stop hackers in their tracks. Say hello to FIDO2. FIDO is short for Fast IDentity Online and was created by FIDO Alliance to reduce the use of passwords and continue to improve user security.
FIDO2 consists of cryptographic login credentials that are unique across every website. This replaces the need for usernames and passwords by verifying an individual’s identity to their workstation or network. These cryptographic login credentials are then unlocked by users with passwordless secure options, such as biometric authentication or FIDO security keys, whichever a user or organization prefers. The combination of these technologies creates a security model that eliminates the risks of phishing, all forms of password theft, and replay attacks.
FIDO2 is growing in popularity, with large technology providers such as Microsoft adopting FIDO2 to create ultra-secure and convenient passwordless authentication options for their customers. With its promising use of combining multiple technologies to create a layered security system that is also extremely seamless and easy for users, FIDO2 may be the one to bid passwords their farewell.
What all this means is that, although we all are still dealing with passwords now, they may become obsolete in the future. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be doing our best to comply with password recommendations to keep our information safe and our password game strong. But what it does mean is that we may be able to look forward to a future where we no longer have to worry about the hassle of creating hundreds of different passwords for each of our accounts and then trying to remember each and every one.