Will biometrics replace the humble password?

An ever-increasing number of businesses are choosing to phase out the password and up security by implementing entry by voice, facial recognition and fingerprint. This revolutionary technology could have huge-reaching implications – but will it be enough to replace the humble password?

Microsoft is one of the largest firms to introduce support for the Fast IDentity Online (FIDO) standard, rolling it out across its new operating system, Windows 10. This is old news for Apple users, though, as the firm’s Touch ID – which has been in use since 2013 – has long meant users can place a finger against their device’s screen to access it, rather than imputing a passcode.

Though do these high-profile developments mean the death of the humble password is really round the corner?

Apple says that there’s a one-in-10,000 chance of someone guessing a four-digit passcode, whereas only one-in-50,000 fingerprints would ‘match up’ with the true owner’s. It’s unsurprising, then, that two UK banks have now chosen to use Touch ID to help customers secure their bank accounts.

The trouble with passwords is that they are easy to forget, so people write them down. Alternatively, people create passwords that are too easy to remember, and thus unsecure – ‘123456’ and ‘password’ are still the top of SplashData’s worst passwords list. Businesses that only secure their data with passwords like these are at huge risk of breaches.

Moreover, both Microsoft’s and Apple’s biometric security have a different architecture to password models. Biometric data is stored locally, meaning if hackers do break in, they are unable to access millions of people’s personal data, so the loss to businesses is minimal.

BiometricsThere is reason to be cautious about adopting biometrics, however. People’s retinas, fingerprints and voices are all very personal, whereas (good) passwords aren’t – they’re a jumble of nonsensical numbers and letters. This means biometric data could become an even bigger target for cyber thieves. Moreover, not everyone would feel comfortable handing over such data to certain companies; your employees might be completely against the idea of giving away their fingerprint to you or a piece of particular software.

It’s obvious that there is a need to replace passwords with something much more secure, but there is no certainty that biometrics will be the ideal solution. Not yet, anyway.

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