These 5 Alternatives To Passwords Will Blow Your Mind
You have reached the checkout page while purchasing an item online; you have waited in a long queue to get to a cash machine; or you have entered a website into your browser. And then, you are asked to present your password. But your mind goes blank. You simply can’t remember it.
It’s a situation we have all found ourselves in at one time or another. Each of us has dozens of accounts that all require a complex series of letters and numbers in order to access them. If you use the same one every time you run the risk of leaving yourself vulnerable to a hacker who discovers your password. If you use several passwords it is impossible to store them all at the top of your head.
In this era of increasing cyber crime and security consciousness, passwords have been one of the major issues for technology companies around the globe. Each has been searching for a perfect solution to the problem. In 2013, however, we saw a number of major breakthroughs across the board. Many were questionable, but some were promising. So as they go into the next stages and potentially prepare to roll out, what alternatives to passwords might we see in 2014?
01. Fingerprint Passwords
Apple unveiled their Touch ID fingerprint scanner for the iPhone 5s in 2013. It is currently used for unlocking the phone and paying for purchases with your Apple ID. It allows up to 5 different fingerprints to be registered for access if the smartphone is used by the whole family. Apple’s is the first phone to do this but Android have committed to following suit in the future. Many other companies will likely do the same.
Is using your fingerprint instead of passwords really a good idea, especially when the average person leaves their fingerprint on hundreds of items in the course of a single day? A group of German hackers called Chaos Computer Club (CCC) certainly didn’t think so and demonstrated within days of the iPhone 5’s launch how easy it was to crack. They photographed a fingerprint from a glass screen, printed it into transparent paper and placed it on the phone thereby breaking into the system.
02. Facial Recognition
The concept of using facial recognition as a form of identification has been considered for decades. However, Uniqul have been the first to make realistic strides. Last summer, they released a YouTube video that details a perfect world/Orwellian dystopia (delete as applicable) where facial recognition will replace a chip and pin card.
“You pick up your things, approach the checkout, give a meaningful nod, and that is it,” the voiceover in the video describes. While such technology would potentially reduce the risk of identity theft and fraud protecting your finances in the meantime (unless, perhaps, if you are a twin) the video demo is a little too close to, say, Steven Spielberg’s film Minority Report for comfort. Especially as the voiceover monotonously announces “Hi, I’m your new friend” in the somewhat eerie conclusion. It’s easy to imagine people seeing this as a step too far.
CAPTCHA codes are undeniably infuriating. They are passwords that exist online in an attempt to distinguish humans from bots. They work by asking users to input distorted text to gain access to certain web pages. You do not have to remember them, however, they can often be difficult to read. That’s not to mention how unreliable they are. Bots have frequently been able to bypass them with ease.
Microsoft have come up with a new solution currently in beta testing that could replace CAPTCHA codes in 2014: ASIRRA. It’s a system that asks users to identify the images of cats from a gallery of animal photographs in order to access secure sites.
The pictures are taken from a database of over three million sheltered animals so there is little chance that bots will memorise the correct choices and break through. It also limits the amount of attempts you can have to prevent brute-force attacks. What is perhaps most important thing though: instead of boring text, users get to look at adorable kittens. So, everybody wins!
04. Electronic Pills
If the thought of someone gaining access to your passwords is making you queasy, Motorola can prescribe a solution: take one of their electronic pills every day.
The company have invented a small vitamin that will emit an 18-bit ECG-like signal when digested by your stomach acid. The signal can be used to access your smartphone, tablet, etc. instead of a password. It is deactivated when it leaves the body.
Of course, this bizarre solution is not exactly what the doctor ordered. As you might imagine, the idea of consuming a pill that turns your body into something of a giant authentication device has its problems. It has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, but as scientists continue to find links between electronics and cancer the idea of swallowing a chip every day is hardly going to be popular. And, sure, it may be convenient (well, unless you forget to take it before you leave for work and you’re locked out of your phone all day) but is it really that much safer? All it would take is a common thief to pry open your bathroom window and they could potentially have access to all your private details.
In 2014, you may no longer have to store your passwords at the top of your head; you will be able to store them in your heart.
Chun-Liang Lin from the National Chung Hsing University in Taiwan began research into how heartbeats could be used as passwords at the beginning of 2013. The concept is based around the idea that your heartbeat is entirely unique to you and has a pattern that never repeats. Therefore, he and his team of researchers tested a way of using an ECG (electrocardiograph) taken from someone’s palm to make an encryption key that would serve as a password.
It’s a complex idea (who knows whether it’ll be available by the end of the year, even if it does work) but its promise is enough to make the hearts of those concerned with internet security skip a beat.