Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Your Password Is 'Out Of Date'

We spoke recently of the survival of the fax machine. There's another technology that has survived despite its inherent weaknesses - passwords.

As has been proved time and time again recently, passwords are all too often not a sufficient protection. We have written before of the importance of creating a strong password but it's almost impossible to get this flawlessly right all the time. In an ideal world, every account you own would have a different password. That password would be a minimum of 8 characters. It would include lowercase and uppercase characters, numbers and preferably some punctuation. No part of it would appear in a dictionary or be a date. Basically, it would be impossible to remember.

There are services that can generate and then store secure passwords. The flaw here is that you will either tick 'remember me', therefore giving anyone who gets hold of your device free access to your accounts, or you will rely on the service to remind you of what the password is. Access to that service is likely guarded by a single password and the circle is complete. If I can crack that password, all your accounts belong to me.

In addition, as computers become ever more powerful, they have the potential to crack passwords ever quicker. Somewhat ironically, graphics cards are better at this than processors. Any password is crackable. It's just a matter of time.

Two-step verification is a way forward. Google, Dropbox and a number of other services offer this and it entails a constantly changing number generated by your phone that you have to type in after your password. Sadly, all too few services offer this and it does take longer to access your account. It's only a few seconds, but they add up.

Fingerprint and facial recognition have bee trialled with limited success. Also, most of these systems have a backup that, if recognition fails, will ask for a password. And here we are again.

So what's the way forward? There is space for a new technology that resolves these problems. But it'll take better men than me to come up with it. Any ideas? Comment below or on our Facebook page if that man or woman is you.

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