authentication, finger, industry, passwords, survey

The persistence of passwords

Biometrics has growing, but not sole, role in authentification security (Information Management)

“Many IT professionals aren’t convinced biometrics can serve as a secure and reliable replacement for the standard username and password combo,” said Peter Tsai, senior technology analyst at Spiceworks. “Unless technology vendors can address the security issues and privacy concerns associated with biometrics, the technology will likely be used side-by-side in the workplace with traditional passwords or as a secondary authentication factor for the foreseeable future.”

It looks like this 2013 post and the paper that informed it are holding up quite well.

In the paper, A Research Agenda Acknowledging the Persistence of Passwords, Cormac Herley and Paul C. van Oorschot write:

“Passwords, though unloved, deserve some words of praise. They have brought us this far: they are the means by which two billion Internet users access email, banking, social networking and other services. They are essentially free from the service provider viewpoint, and are readily understood by users. They allow instantaneous account setup. Revocation is as simple as changing the password. Those who forget their passwords can be emailed either reset links or the passwords themselves (this practice, though insecure, is common for low-value sites). All of this is automated and instantaneous. They allow access to one’s accounts from anywhere in the world assuming nothing more than a simple browser. Sophisticated users can protect themselves from many of the threats. “

All this is still true. Biometrics, however, can also be used as a way to return the password to the simplicity of the PIN. For example: a fingerprint scan associated with a weak password such as a 4 digit PIN provides far stronger authentication than any password a human could be expected to type. In other words, biometrics can be combined with rudimentary passwords to bring an end to the “password arms race” where the main coping strategy has been longer, more complex and more frequently changing passwords — i.e. the real reasons people tire of the humble workhorse of the ID game. So instead of replacing the password, biometrics might one day be used as a way to salvage what makes it great while minimizing the frustrations associated with over-reliance upon it.


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