Would You Trust Password Alternatives?
If tech companies have their way, technology may one day have us abandon a password for alternate ways to log in to devices and computers.
I hate passwords.
They’re necessary, of course, but I hate having to keep up with all of them.
We’re advised to keep a unique password different for every account we create: it’s too dangerous, security experts suggest, to use the same password across multiple accounts since anyone who’s able to figure out your password for one account could thereby get access to others.
Having to create different codes for different accounts, though, means it’s nearly impossible to remember them all, which, in turn, means you have to employ special apps that store them all for you.
I use LastPass for this function: it’s biggest challenge is remembering the complicated password I set for it: if I forget it, I’m permanently locked out because, apparently, no one at that company has a way to retrieve it.
Sure, that’s secure, but also a little intimidating.
It’s the end of the password as we know it
So what might we use instead? If tech companies have their way, there are numerous options out there.
There’s a scene in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in which Captain James T. Kirk submits to a retina scan to gain access to secret documentation of Project Genesis. Retina scans apparently are a good way to determine one’s identity since they, like fingerprints, are unique to the individual. But I have a thing about the eyes, and I don’t know that I want random devices peering into my eyeball just to verify who I am.
CBS News recently reported on technology that can measure someone’s walk — again, that’s apparently different for each of us — and track the patterns of specific motion to unique individuals. That sounds far too much like exercise to me.
A Canadian company markets a wearable device that measures one’s heartbeat, which must also be unique to an individual, to verify identity. But then you’re having to wear something just to get access.
It’s the same story with a “biometric ring” that Microsoft users might wear to access their accounts password-free.
Voice recognition could be an option, but I wonder if folks like Rich Little couldn’t make a virtual killing by gaining access to someone else’s accounts with just a bit of clever imitation.
Google’s Trust API password replacement project might even include ways for your phone to be able to differentiate your screen swiping style from that of someone else, according to CNN. Far be it from me to question the wisdom of Google engineers, but exactly how many ways are there to swipe across a screen?
Is tech worth the inconvenience?
Like them or not, we’re used to entering passwords to get access to the software we need. Wearing something, assuming you remember to put it on, might sound nice, until you remember you have to have that accessory with you (and that it, too, needs to be charged) to grant you access.
Facial recognition and retina scans may not work as well if the lighting conditions aren’t right.
If you suffer an injury that affects your gait, that tech tracking your movements may think you’re someone else.
So what if any of that happens? I suspect the answer would be that, as a backup, you’d just enter a password. If the high-tech option isn’t available, after all, you still have to be able to get in.
I don’t think passwords are going anywhere, as much as we might like them to.