Technology: Passwords in Progress

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Do we still need passwords, though? I would guess ‘yes’, at least for the foreseeable future, because most of the different authentication systems either rely on passwords as a backup or provide a mere brokerage to accessing the device or data in question. A few things doing the rounds at the moment are:

ZIA (Zero interaction authentication): This works by providing you with a token on a device you might carry about a lot. The obvious candidate here is the mobile phone. Using Bluetooth, NFC or a few other short- range communication tools, the computer you were trying to unlock (for example) would ‘see’ this token on your phone and unlock itself automatically. This merely provides someone with the opportunity to steal your phone as well as your bank details.

Fingerprint: This one is probably the most popular and useful currently. Android and iOS both have the tech built in and it works well so far, with a very small margin of error. The problem, of course, is that they all rely on a PIN or a password as a backup in case you’ve been in the bath and your finger has gone like a prune. Or worse. A chain is only as strong as the weakest link, after all.

Two-factor authentication: This uses two factors, unsurprisingly. The most common way is that once you have supplied a user name and password, the site will send you an SMS with a code to fill in on the site. Only if your ID and SMS match will you be given access. In my personal experience, this works well and it does mean that the potential criminal would need to have both your password and your phone.

I am pretty old-school when it comes to looking after my passwords, as I have been on the internet since forever and have a hundred of them. Quite literally. For me, the simplest option is a copy of KeePass (keepass.info) that I keep on a USB stick and back up to my Dropbox. Simply, you only need one password to open the whole thing – so make it memorable and secure – then you’ll have access to all your other passes, plus the ability to make notes, enter site login links and lots of other stuff I don’t use. Best of all, it’s free. Now there’s a happy note to end on.