The Death of the Password

By Lyons, Dan | Newsweek, July 11, 2011 | Go to article overview
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The Death of the Password


Lyons, Dan, Newsweek


Byline: Dan Lyons

Your pet's name won't get you into your email anymore. Here's how you'll protect your data online in the future.

Are passwords passe? It's starting to seem like it. Everybody hates them, and nobody can remember all the ones they've created. These days a typical netizen has dozens of online accounts. If you really want to be safe, you need to have a different password for each one, and each password needs to be incredibly complicated, with a mix of capital letters, symbols, and numbers. Who can keep all that stuff in their head?

Most people don't bother. Some just make up one password and use it everywhere. Others might have a few passwords--one for all their banking and financial stuff, one for their social networks, one for email. Problem is that if one site gets hacked, the bad guys now have the password that you use elsewhere. These hacks are happening so frequently these days that you might as well assume there is no way to keep a password secret. In one recent attack on Sony, millions of accounts were exposed.

Computer scientists realize the system is broken, and they're looking for alternatives. But most attempts haven't been very good. Fingerprint readers require special hardware, and a lot of people find them creepy and don't want to use them.

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