2016 / 31 March

Dinosaurs and Passwords, Both Should be Fossilized!

fossil

On a geologically timescale, dinosaurs were wiped out in the blink of an eye. The use of usernames and passwords are headed for a similar fate, but at a pace that will make your head spin.

Within the next 5 years, the use of usernames, passwords, and PINs will become nearly extinct – replaced by significantly more secure biometric solutions. What’s going to make this revolutionary transition possible? Exponential advances in technology are key enablers but at the root of the problem is the ability to finally address the challenges of human behavior.

In an earlier article, Cybercrime: Handing Keys To The Criminals?, I mentioned that usernames and passwords were the weakest link in the cyber security chain. That’s not entirely true. The weakest link is human behavior.

Like most creatures on this planet, human beings are generally hardwired to take the path of least resistance – following processes requiring the least amount energy to accomplish a given task. Yes, we can overcome this biological tendency but it doesn’t come naturally and thus is prone to frequent failure. It’s simply easier to reuse passwords, write them down, or make them readily memorable than it is to follow good security practices. Companies have been fighting this battle for decades, introducing policies that enforce regular password changes, the number of and type of characters in your password, mandatory security training, technical audits, and the list goes on. And yet somehow, people still find a way to make those security practices a mute point with the criminals come knocking. The problem is that while most cyber security best practices often do make things safer, they don’t make things easier from a user experience standpoint. In fact, they make things more difficult and increasingly complicated for most of us. So, people do what they do. They find ways to make their lives easier. They find ways around the rules.

While biometrics has been around for a very long time, it’s just now that the technology has caught up with the rest of the world. Even a few years ago, the sensor miniaturization, processing power, and software algorithms made biometrics an impractical solution for a mobile world. Today, we have billions of smart phones in circulation with high-quality cameras, microphones, and, more recently, embedded fingerprint scanners.

Now when most people hear the word “biometrics”, they immediately think of fingerprints. However, facial, voice, and iris recognition are also now firmly in the realm of what’s possible with the processing power found in smart phones, tablets, laptops, and other similar devices. More importantly, the technology has reached the point where it can be implemented in a way that is nearly seamless to the user. This is lowering the adoption risk while simultaneously improving the user experience – it’s a win-win situation.

Imagine being able to walk up to a cash machine and have it securely log you into your bank account without ever needing to insert a debit card or enter a PIN?

Today, with solutions such as Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, we are already seeing biometrics begin to enter the mobile payment space in a big way. Certainly those solutions still have major flaws, as evidenced by some of the negative media coverage tied to increases in credit card fraud, but the trend is clear. Biometric authentication has entered mainstream public awareness and will revolutionize the world of secure digital transactions. It’s a change that is going to come quickly.

However, by themselves, biometric solutions are not the silver bullet to the problem of cyber security. In fact, the push from Apple and other companies to position the smart phone as the singular device to manage you digital life is a bit problematic from a security standpoint (see my blog post, 1 Device To Rule Them All, Should You Be Worried?). Putting all your eggs in one basket, even with biometric protection, is simply not a good idea.
Companies like BluStor, are in the process of bringing to the market ultra-secure solutions that enable multi-factor biometric authentication (fingerprint, facial, voice, iris, etc.) and secure data storage that allows you to keep your most sensitive data separate from your smart phone, yet still easily accessible. In fact, it can operate in combination with virtually any device, including smart phones, tablets, laptops and most desktop computers.

In something the size of a credit card, CyberGate provides a high-performance processor; 8GB+ of flash ram; two-year rechargeable battery; Bluetooth and NFC wireless communications; hardware encryption; embedded Java OS; and much more. As a ultra-secure companion to your smart phone, it is a solution that is poised to have a huge impact on the world of cyber security:

  • What if you could take back control of all your most sensitive data, keep it securely in your pocket, and decide for yourself what to share and when to share it?
  • If you’re an employer, what if you could positively secure your staff rather then just the devices they use to access corporate information?

That’s BluStor’s value proposition to the world.

So, within 5 years … that’s my prediction of when biometrics will be come the primary means we all use to authenticate ourselves as part of virtually every digital transaction. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing all my usernames and passwords go the way of the dinosaurs!

If you valued this article and want more, please hit the ‘like’ button and also share via your Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook social media platforms. I encourage you to join the conversation or ask questions so feel free to add a comment on this post.

You can also find me on twitter at @NewFrontierCIO for more commentary on the frontiers of technology, leadership, space exploration, and science.

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