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The Future of Passwords and Biometrics

Passwords and Biometrics
Written by Michael Katz

How many times did you experience getting your password cracked by your friend or your siblings? How many times did someone open your Facebook account even though you sign out every time and clear your cache and cookies?

There is only one reason why your accounts are easy to crack by your family and peers. Your password is just too predictable. Let’s admit it, when was the last time you used a jumbled form of your name, your birthdate, 1234 as your password in your account. People tend to be very forgetful, that’s why people set their password in a way that it is very simple and easy to remember but because of this your account is susceptible to attacks from hackers.

Let’s put it this way. If you want security in your accounts then you need to set stronger passwords; stronger password means a bunch of letters, numbers and characters that are just simply too hard to remembers.

But someday securing your accounts will be much easier. No more lengthy password and no more chance of getting it cracked. The answer to every dilemma is biometrics. The simplest way to define what biometrics is, it’s the science of identifying a person based on unique physical traits or characteristics through the use of computers or gadgets. The best example of this that is currently in the market and widely accepted by the public is the fingerprint scanner or Touch ID that Apple has built in its iPhone 5s.

Biometrics is the future of Cyber security and identity identification. By using this rather than the traditional forms of identification like passports, ID’s, passwords, etc. we limit the chances of identity theft and hacking. Biometrics relies on the person’s unique physical traits and characteristics to identify the person’s identity and traits. This can’t be easily stolen or replicated. Some of the well-known examples of biometrics are fingerprint scanner and the retina scanner that we often see in movies.

But like any technology we need to understand the limitation as well as threats that biometrics provides. In today’s time biometrics cannot be fully implemented due to the lack of the technology to support it. Sure, technology is improving, but, it is not yet at the point that it can support biometrics.

Issues of privacy, because you have submitted yourself to biometrics, would make it a lot easier for the government or anyone for that matter to track your every move because you’re easy to identify in a crowd. They will know where you go, where you eat and who you go out with or without your permission. This is the best form of surveillance.

Biometrics can’t be reissued or change. Because it’s permanent, it is impossible to get your biometrics change. What if you get into an accident and the accident causes you physical abnormalities and changes to your features. You can’t go to the government and request them to change your biometrics because your physical traits have changed. The idea of changing biometrics goes against the whole idea of permanence and security.

Lastly, the issue of safety. Given that thieves or hackers can’t access your account or property they may resort to extreme ways just to get access to it. The fear of these people inflicting physical harm to a person just to get information from them in any way possible can make anyone cringe.

But wherever technology may take us, one of the world’s biggest concerns will always be about security. May the future lead to better, stronger traditional protection or a unique form of security and protection than biometrics can give.

Feature Image By Annagen, LLC dba Netrepid (http://www.netrepid.com/colocation-services/) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

About the author

Michael Katz

Michael Katz is a technology and security writer who grew up around technology. From a very early age, he has been in love with computers and follows many of the companies that produce them, hoping to learn more about what makes them tick. When not writing about technology and internet security, he can be found on the pitch with his friends playing a friendly game of football.

39 Comments

  • Whether face, iris, fingerprint, typing, gesture, heartbeat or brainwave, biometric authentication could be a candidate for displacing the password if/when (only if/when) it has stopped depending on a password to be registered in case of false rejection while keeping the near-zero false acceptance.

    Threats that can be thwarted by biometric products operated together with fallback/backup passwords can be thwarted more securely by passwords alone. We could be certain that biometrics would help for better security only when it is operated together with another factor by AND/Conjunction (we need to go through both of the two), not when operated with another factor by OR/Disjunction (we need only to go through either one of the two) as in the cases of Touch ID and many other biometric products on the market that require a backup/fallback password, which only increase the convenience by bringing down the security.

    In short, biometric solutions could be recommended to the people who want convenience but should not be recommended to those who need security. It may be interesting to have a quick look at a slide titled “PASSWORD-DEPENDENT PASSWORD-KILLER” shown at
    http://www.slideshare.net/HitoshiKokumai/password-dependent-passwordkiller-46151802

  • Ok, so I say this respectfully, but this author doesn’t understand information security (but is writing about it and advising people bad information). Biometrics do not remove the password from the systems that are getting hacked, it only makes the real user use a biometric then pass the password to the targeted application. Because applications do not know what a biometric is. It isn’t like PKI where you can change the application to know what it is.

    Therefore the fundamental problem of the application being susceptible to ALL password hacks is still there. Also, pass-through doesn’t do anything for exploits like XXRF, you are dead. Biometrics are great for identification but HORRIBLE for authentication at this point in time. Don’t confuse the two if you are really trying to improve security because biometrics doesn’t do so and comes at a high cost with other problems like the fact that there is no revocation model if there is an issue.

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