Three Reasons Passwords Are Here to Stay

July 28, 2015
By: TMCnet Special Guest
Bill Carey, is Vice President of Marketing & Business Development at Siber Systems Inc.

Passwords as part of a system login process have been around longer than the Internet. Passwords can be a hassle to remember, and many major hacking incidents originate with a compromised password. For these reasons, some assume that a more secure system is just around the corner that will ultimately replace passwords. And maybe someday passwords will become a thing of the past. But that’s not going to happen any time soon.

The security problem associated with passwords isn’t inherent to passwords themselves; rather, the use of weak passwords and carelessness with password security is what leaves individuals and companies more vulnerable to hackers. Practices like using names, job titles, birthdays, favorite sports teams or pets’ names as a password leaves people open to hackers. So does using the same password for multiple sites or failing to regularly change passwords.

Use of a strong password for every site – one comprising both upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols – and changing it every 30-60 days is actually an excellent deterrent to hackers. And use of a secure password manager can make using a strong password for all sites automatic and simple, with the user only having to remember one master password.

But what about password alternatives like biometrics?

We’ve all seen movies with high-tech retina scans, and handprint or fingerprint technology that renders passwords obsolete. Won’t biometric technologies replace passwords soon? Probably not:

  1. Biometric systems are expensive: Fingerprint and retina scanning login technology has been around for many years, but there’s a reason it has failed to make significant inroads into everyday login processes: It’s expensive to incorporate biometrics into laptops, desktops and mobile devices.
  2. It’s not easy to revoke or change biometric login credentials: In business settings as well as in home use, it’s not unusual for several people to use the same device or for devices to change hands as users replace tablets and laptops. It’s simple enough to make a change for password-protected devices, but biometrics make it complicated.
  3. User biometrics can change: Another issue that blocks widespread adoption of biometrics is the fact that fingerprints and retinas can be affected by fairly common injuries and medical conditions, which can cause access issues. People don’t want to be locked out of their devices due to a minor cut on a fingertip.

Convenience, price and practicality are behind the longevity of passwords as the first line of defense for cyber security, and it is likely that this will remain the case for the foreseeable future. Siber Systems research conducted earlier this year indicates that nearly a third of surveyed participants log in to 11 or more websites and applications each day. The survey also indicated that it’s a challenge to remember more than three or four strong passwords at a time.

This dilemma explains why many people are hoping for a simple solution to replace passwords, but in reality, it’s more likely that companies will respond to increased hacking threats by instituting a multi-factor authentication process that includes passwords. For that reason, it makes more sense to focus on ways to make passwords stronger and more convenient. A secure password manager may be the best alternative because passwords are here to stay. 

About the Author

Bill Carey is Vice President of Marketing & Business Development at Siber Systems Inc., which offers the top-rated RoboForm Password Manager solution. You can find out more about RoboForm at http://www.roboform.com/.




Edited by Peter Bernstein