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Are Passwords Becoming Obsolete?

Password Relevance

Back in the 1960s a man by the name of Fernando Corbato was credited with "being the father of" an idea that would become one of the most polarizing security features in the computer industry. While you may not know this man's name, you are definitely familiar with his concept: passwords.

A few months back, I wrote a blog talking about making your passwords more secure. While I talked about good practices of frequently changing them or creating mnemonics to help the user remember a "tough" password, there have always been limitations to the password.

Since their conception, passwords were always meant to be a means of allowing users to access content without anyone else able to pry. However, there are many problems that have arisen within computer security. You are probably familiar with the many hacks that have taken place over the years, especially with the larger corporations that are trying to stay ahead of the hackers due to the fact that they hold a lot of your personal information. Whether it's banking information or simply a collection of photos, sometimes the only barrier between your data and unauthorized access to it is a few correct keystrokes. It's kind of scary to think about that, and even Corbato agrees. In an interview he did with the Wall Street Journal he said the following:

"Unfortunately it's become kind of a nightmare with the World Wide Web. I don't think anybody can possibly remember all the passwords that are issued or set up. That leaves people with two choices. Either you maintain a crib sheet, a mild no-no, or you use some sort of program as a password manager. Either one is a nuisance."

Most companies have other security protocols in place to help, but if all you simply need is a password to enter, and an unauthorized user has the correct login credentials, maliciousness can ensue. The reason I bring all this up is because I read an article on Yahoo that spoke about doing away with passwords in general starting October 15th

While this idea isn't new (there have been other alternatives to passwords using biometrics such as fingerprint scanning and facial recognition), I thought the way Yahoo was going about the solution was a fairly good idea. All you need is your smart phone. Essentially, users of the Yahoo! Mail app will have access to a new service called Yahoo Account Key. By connecting your smart phone to your account, your phone will simply send you a message where you can tap "Yes" or "No" to gain legitimate access. You can read the entire article here.

Technology should benefit us, not make life more complicated. While passwords aren't going anywhere yet (and it's always possible that someone, somewhere may be able to come up with a way to skirt around this), Yahoo's idea sounds like a good first step to making a better, and more secure, end user experience. It's kind of fun to think about how technology has changed over the last few decades and what may or may not become obsolete down the road. After years of practice remembering all those passwords, we may finally start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I wonder what might be next?

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