Our friend Bob Rankin says our main line of defense from hackers is no longer adequate.–PC Pitstop.
Are Passwords Obsolete?
By Bob Rankin
Passwords have been our main line of defense against information bandits since the earliest days of computing. “The thin typed line” of alphanumeric characters is all that stands between most of us and identity theft, raided bank accounts, extortion, and a host of other crimes. But the line is crumbling and it’s time for something new…
What Will Replace Passwords?
Alphanumeric passwords have been around a long time. My high school had a Model 33 Teletype, which was the first computer terminal I used. More than 35 years later, I can still remember my teletype login and password (HEL-N703,MTH). But some security experts are predicting that passwords will soon be as obsolete as my beloved teletype.
There are many problems with relying upon passwords alone for online security. First and foremost is human nature, which is lazy. Short, obvious, easily-cracked passwords that are reused on every website and never changed is the norm rather than the exception. People act as if the Internet is looking out for their security so they don’t have to.
Passwords are Obsolete
But hackers have no difficulty breaking into major Web sites and stealing millions of passwords at one go. Now the Heartbleed bug has revealed that the infrastructure of the Internet itself is insecure, exposing hundreds of millions of users to password theft and worse. In every bulletin about a new security breach, you will read the phrase, “…passwords may have been compromised.”
Clearly, we need something to bolster or replace the extremely vulnerable password as the key to a person’s online identity and treasures. Several alternative authentication techniques have been tried; one looks like it will catch hold and become the new standard.
In general, you can prove to an online system that you are who you claim to be using something known to the system and yourself. That something may be:
Something you know, such as a password
Something you possess, such as a mobile phone
Something you are, such as a person with a unique fingerprint
Excerpt shared with permission from Bob Rankin.
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